A Big Issue vendor in Melbourne. Magazine sellers in London have started taking credit card payments. Photo: Pat Scala
In London's plush South Kensington, just outside the imposing bulk of the Science Museum, a small technological revolution is taking place in street retailing.
Simon Mott, a former Underground train driver and seller of The Big Issue, a magazine which supports the homeless, has become the first of its vendors to start accepting card payments for the £2.50 ($A4.50) publication.
Mott, 49, dressed in a cream jumper and sporting The Big Issue's distinctive red vendor jacket, sees himself as a trailblazer.
"It's novel to them," he says of his customers' surprise. "Sometimes they say to me, 'Really, you take card payments? I don't believe that, show me.' And it's like, 'Oh look, you can.' Mott sells 80 to 100 issues a week, of which between five and 10 are paid for by card.
"Some people like the idea of paying by card," he adds.
In an increasingly cashless society, Mott realised that he was losing customers who found themselves without any change, so in May he invested in a card payment system from Swedish firm iZettle.
The small black box which he carries links up with a smartphone to accept card payments and track cash transactions. Data from cards is not stored on the device.
"It's an overall cash register in your pocket, basically," says Mott. "This is a way of capturing those lost sales that may disappear." Vendors keep half their takings from selling the magazine. Mott has been one for the last three years, after an accident at work eventually left him homeless.
"It is a lifeline. It gives you a sense of purpose," he says of The Big Issue, which has a circulation of over 105,000 copies a week in Britain.
At the moment, however, it's the magazine which is looking to its vendor for help.
"We are very actively looking at it at the moment," says Stephen Robertson, chief executive of the magazine publishers.
The Big Issue has around 2000 vendors across Britain. Currently, only one is accepting cards - for now.