New virtual pop-up toy store in Toronto may be a sign of Christmas yet to come

Walmart-Mattel pop-up toy store (handout photo)Scrooges, rejoice! With the launch of a new virtual pop-up toy store along Toronto's PATH system, there will be one less reason for you to have to venture into a real mall this holiday season.

Walmart and Mattel have launched the pop-up store in the largest underground shopping complex in the world to help Toronto commuters pick up gifts for little ones while they're on the go.

To 'shop' in the virtual store, customers approach one of the two walls of three-dimensional toy images with their smartphone, scan the QR code displayed beneath the toy's image, charge the purchase to a credit card and have their selection shipped to them for free. Alternatively, customers can use the QR code to find the product themselves on the Walmart Canada website.

"As Canadians become increasingly comfortable with e-commerce, we see mobile commerce taking off," said Melissa Chau, Brand Manager for Mattel Canada, in a press release. "In fact, the most recent statistics show that four out of five consumers use smartphones to shop."

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Over the next four weeks, those walking along Toronto's PATH system can stop and visit the first virtual toy store in Canada at Brookfield Place. It's the same building that got Canada's very first pop-up virtual store back in April, when Well.ca set up a virtual pharmacy.

Unlike the Well.ca promotion, customers aren't required to download a separate app to use the virtual store. Instead, they can use the QR code scanner already on their phone.

While these virtual stores may still be relatively new in Canada, they have begun popping up in other locations worldwide over the last year. Most people are now familiar with the first "virtual grocery store," set up by Tesco in South Korea in 2011:

The company has expanded its virtual locations since then, and most recently opened a virtual store in Gatwick Airport in London, England.

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But it isn't just pop-up stores and commuter hubs where QR codes are being used to let consumers shop virtually; brick-and-mortar Target stores in the U.S. will be making the toy shopping experience more high-tech by adding QR codes to store shelves, TechCrunch reported in October.

The 20 most popular toys of the holiday season will all have QR codes on store shelves and customers can scan those codes to have them shipped for free anywhere in the U.S. For any parent who has had the disappointment of rushing to a store shelf only to find the toy they're looking sold out, this could be a very useful and stress-relieving service.

No word yet if the Target stores coming to Canada in 2013 will offer the same service.

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