John Lewis has joined the growing list of retailers trialling QR codes with the launch of a virtual shop in Brighton.

All of the retailer’s ‘top 30 things to buy for Christmas’ are included in a window display at a branch of Waitrose. 

Customers can scan the QR code of the item they want, which will then take them to the John Lewis mobile site to complete their purchase. 

There will be 96 products on offer until the end of December, including Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. 

John Lewis is using the launch to promote its ‘click and collect service’ which it is currently trialling in 94 Waitrose stores.

After ordering online, customers can pick the item up after 2pm the following day from any John Lewis or participating Waitrose store, if the order is place before 7pm the previous day.

John Lewis’ virtual shop is just the latest example of a retailer using QR codes. Last week we reported on eBay’s plans to open a pop-up shop based around instant purchasing via mobile. 

The most famous, and possibly most successful, example was Tesco Korea’s virtual supermarket shelf in a subway in Korea, which resulted in a 130% increase in online sales.

But the jury is still out on their effectiveness. A recent Econsultancy survey conducted online using TolunaQuick found that only 31% of UK consumers knew what QR codes were or what they are for, and just 19% had scanned one on their mobiles.

What the survey doesn’t tell us is how may people have scanned one more than once after the initial novelty value has gone. 

While the Tesco example shows the potential for using QR codes to drive sales, that did take place in South Korea where there is greater awareness of QR codes, and where many phones have them preinstalled. It will be interesting to see whether this success can be replicated here in the UK.

Though QR codes have their drawbacks, they are cost-effective, and John Lewis already has a mobile optimised site to send users to.