Big Issue Group opens ‘Shopfront’ in London that shines a light on magazine vendors and new ways to boost earnings in challenging times

The Big Issue Group (BIG) has unveiled a striking new out of home campaign, which aims to reframe the public’s perception of what it means to sell the Big Issue and to highlight the hard work of its vendors.

The campaign is designed to highlight that, despite not having a traditional bricks and mortar outlet from which to sell, vendors are running mini businesses, buying and selling copies of the magazine to earn a living in order to change their lives.

The mural also aims to raise awareness of a new and innovative digital initiative that will help create new ways for customers to interact with vendors and help bolster Big Issue vendors’ income.

From today, BIG has launched a new digital initiative empowering selected vendors with personalised QR codes on lanyards and webpages allowing consumers to share with their friends and family to boost vendor sales. This initiative will eventually be rolled out to all vendors.

Entitled ‘The Street is My Store’, the realistic 3D ‘storefront’ marks a collaboration between the team behind the Cannes award for the ‘I’m Here’ project, and the UK’s largest hand-painted advertising company, Global Street Art. 

Big Issue vendors are a familiar sight in UK towns and high streets, engaging with members of the public everyday. Despite awareness of the organisation, many still don’t realise that vendors are in effect running their own mini-enterprises.

Vendors buy magazines for £2 and sell them on for £4. Customers can also subscribe with a vendor online, which provides a vital additional source of regular income. 

With the support of BIG, these micro-business owners learn vital skills that help them grow and develop, meeting their personal, social and financial goals. However, these businesses wouldn’t be viable without public support.

The importance of supporting vendors cannot be overstated, especially in light of the cost of living crisis, and with 14m[1] living in poverty, which has driven more people to find different ways to stay afloat. The challenge people are facing is reflected in vendor numbers, which have increased by 10% since last year. BIG’s recent Impact Report also revealed demand for food and fuel support from vendors had increased sevenfold.

‘The Street is My Store’ campaign was derived from the need to raise awareness that vendors are running their own micro businesses and to encourage public support of local vendors.

The Big Issue team collaborated with Global Street Art to bring the realistic 3D storefronts to life. Giving Big Issue vendors their own high street premises, whilst simultaneously raising brand awareness, the campaign highlights how Big Issue vendors are micro businesses in their own right, with an unwavering presence on the UK’s ever changing high streets. 

Painted by Global Street Art’s Lead Artist, Pete Barber, alongside a brilliant supporting team, the artwork is located at Village Underground measuring 7.4 metres high by 16 metres wide. Intricately detailed, the shopfronts display an array of the most recent magazine covers.

Highlighting information about vendors and ex-vendors, as well as the work that the organisation does to elevate people out of poverty and into work, the mural serves as an entry point for the public to find out more about BIG’s work. 

Zoe Hayward, Group Chief Marketing Officer, at BIG, said:  “The work we do has never been more been more important in light of the Cost-of-living crisis. We have launched this campaign to showcase ways in which our vendors work hard to earn a living and that customers can now boost their local vendors’ income in even more ways.

“We are pleased to mark the launch of yet another way the public can help to boost their local vendor’s income by scanning the vendor’s personalised QR code to share their story and subscribe.

“We would like to thank the creative team and GSA who have both worked tirelessly on this project and delivered an impactful, arresting stunt moment that we hope will capture the attention of the public and readdress common misconceptions around how our business model and our vendor network.”

Dr Lee Bofkin, CEO and Co-Founder, Global Street Art, said: “We believe in the power of art to transform communities and inspire change. Painting a large mural for the Big Issue Group was a great opportunity to create something impactful and meaningful”.

Mark Campion, Creative Director, commented: “There is still a huge misconception that vendors are given a hand out, as opposed to running their own micro businesses who purchase the magazines and need to sell them at a profit in order to benefit. We knew that we needed a simple but clever idea combined with a disruptive use of media to cut through to people and change their perception of vendors. GSA has been the perfect partner in this and we are hopeful of the effect of this campaign both in terms of short-term sales and long-term perception change.” 

Bianca Green, Senior Creative Producer, commented: “Last year we explored the possibilities of technology. This year we return to a very primal form of expression. Both incredibly powerful, both we hope uniquely effective in giving Big Issue vendors the stage they deserve.”

Alexander Harazim, Senior Designer, commented: “Partnership with GSA has been one of the best, GSA has been extremely helpful throughout and the artists on site are talented in transcribing the design to application. It has always been a pleasure to work with the Big Issue Group to explore and deliver designs that bring to light their values.”

Max Sizeland, Creative, commented: We partnered with the Big Issue Group to help them change the public’s perception of vendors, a challenge they have had since they began. With this project we hope to shift that unconscious bias and give people a reason to support their local vendors.”

David Craft, Strategy Director, commented: This is the natural evolution from last year’s ‘I’m Here’ campaign. This is moving on from reminding people vendors exist. It’s about reframing and humanising vendors in a big way. They’re small local business owners and deserve to be seen that way.”

The vendors will be selling a special Art Edition of the magazine, which is a guest edit by street artist, My Dog Sighs. An exhibition will be held locally at Jealous Gallery, which will display a limited edition print by the artist created to help raise money for the Big Issue Group.

To boost vendor earnings, buy a copy of the magazine or subscribe online by visiting

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