A LACK of loose change can no longer be used an excuse for not picking up a copy of The Big Issue in Swindon.

That's because the world's most widely-circulated street publication has gone contactless in the town following a successful trial elsewhere.

Martin Hawes has been selling the magazine in Swindon for almost three years and has a pitch outside Marks and Spencer in the town centre.

But he says the move to embrace new technology has yet to result in a sharp rise in custom.

Martin said: “Sales have gone up a little bit, but most people give me cash.

"I did get some people who walk past and say they can’t buy because they only use contactless but now I can use my machine. The idea is to stop them in their tracks.”

Martin worries that uncertainty on the high street may ultimately have an impact on the homeless community supported by The Big Issue.

He added: “Over time I think it will lead to an increase in sales, but with the way Swindon is at the moment, everything’s closing down.

“If Marks and Spencer was to close, I don’t know what’s going to happen. Tesco is changing, Thorntons is gone. The key for Swindon is this place – M&S.”

A Big Issue seller buys the magazines from the parent company of the same name for £1.25 per copy and then sells them on again for £2.50.

“It will pick up over time.” Martin added: “I started using the machine in June after coming back from holiday. At the end of the day I take it home and charge it back up ready to go again the next day.

“You have to enter the price, which is £2.50, and you have to make sure you don’t accidentally make it £250, which has happened," he added.

"You’ve then got to wait for it to connect to the 3G network, and with me being so close to a building it can take a little while to get through.

“Other than that, it’s fine, it’s quite clear.”

The trial use of the contactless payment system took place between December 2018 and May of this year.

As a result, 25 per cent of sales from the trial vendors were made using the contactless system.

Russell Blackman, the managing director of The Big Issue, said: “Vendors are micro-entrepreneurs, effectively running their own small business.

“It has long been our intention to provide our vendors with the opportunity to cater for their customers’ needs and increase income.”