Big Issue vendors in London have complained about a loss of sales and ‘friction’caused by the hundreds of merchandisers handing out afternoon freesheets London Lite and thelondonpaper.
Press Gazette spoke to a number of vendors, who complained that distributors for the two papers have used aggressive tactics and were putting off their customers, causing friction and forcing some to move pitches. James Stevenson, 39, from Glasgow, has been selling The Big Issue from July and stands near Leicester Square tube. He claimed that his sales have halved since the arrival of the free dailies at the beginning of September.
He said: ‘A lot of people buy The Big Issue to read on the Tube, but now they’re not stopping, and just reading the free papers. ‘Some of my friends who sell The Big Issue at Tube stations are being forced to move away. ‘The free paper people are very aggressive, they stand with the paper and force it onto people and that puts them off. You’ve got to move away, which affects your sales.’ Carlos Nicolau, 46, has been selling The Big Issue for two years, and has been on Euston Road since July. He said: ‘The first time they came right here almost on top of me, so I told them to move a little bit. Like us they choose the best places to pitch, with more people. ‘They see them first and they don’t see me. People who want something to read on the train, if they can get it for free they don’t buy The Big Issue, and for me this means less money.’Martin Stone, who sells The Big Issue outside Angel station said: ‘There was friction in the beginning. A lot of them take a lot of liberties. ‘We had a few issues with them, but I’ve got them trained now. They stand their distance from me.’Wayne Barnes has been selling The Big Issue for two and a half years, and said he has noticed around a 50 per cent decrease in sales. He said: ‘It’s a great big battle every day. They started to encroach towards my pitch to the point where I was surrounded by them. ‘What annoys me is that I worked hard to get a good name with Stratford station, and it’s all been ruined by those people turning up.’Spokesperson for The Big Issue Lisa Woodrow said she is confident the launch of the free dailies in London won’t have an effect on The Big Issue’s London ABC figure, currently 69,390, when it is released in February. But she added: ‘Some of their sales people are very aggressive in their approach and a lot of our vendors are very vulnerable and don’t really have the confidence to tell them to bog off.’ Associated Newspapers said: ‘London Lite merchandisers are actively encouraged to behave in a respectful manner and act responsibly while distributing the paper.
‘Any official complaints against London Lite distributors will be investigated and if necessary, disciplinary action will be taken.’A spokesperson for News International, owner of thelondonpaper, said: ‘We don’t countenance aggression and we’ll deal swiftly with any reports, but we do encourage enthusiastic merchandising. ‘Our merchandisers aren’t incentivised or bonus-based on the copies distributed, and we’re also finding now that readers are making their own choices and approaching distributors.”