Stores & Population Density

If you've ever wondered if Apple is locating its stores in the right location, consider where the population of the United States is located--80.8 percent live within cities. That concentration means that a few strategically-located stores can provide service to a large segment of the population.

Apple's most recent claim, made in 2004, was that "well over 100 million people in the United States live within 15 miles of an Apple store" (see below).

To prove the point, here are the locations of Apple's stores as of August, 2008, mapped over a U.S. Census Bureau map showing the distribution of the population by county (darker = more populated). You can see that there are a few areas not coverd by a store now, but that Apple is locating where the most people live.

Some areas now left out include Spokane (WA); Boise (ID); the eastern seaboard of Florida north of Miami; a large area of eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey; metro Cleveland; areas of Massachusetts and Rhode Island; and a corridor from central North Carolina south to Atlanta and Alabama.

My own population analysis of Apple stores is less sophisticated, but makes the point. I obtained city and metro populations for every Apple store location and added up the numbers. Based on today's population estimate, the stores cover 42 percent of the population in which the stores reside. This figure doesn't account for the 15-minute circle of travel used by Apple, and which reaches out substantially further (5-10 miles?) to more people.

By the way, Massachusetts probably has the distinction of having the most Apple store per square-foot, even though California has the most stores.

Also check my earlier attempts to show the store "black-out zones."

Rare editorial follow-up: I thought this was going to be a sleeper of a page. However, it generated lots of comments, especially about the 90%/15-minutes figures.

This is a topic I've researched before, and thought I had figured out. Here's my latest research.

First, how many people live within how close of an Apple store? In Nov., 2002 Allen Olivo, Apple's then-senior director of retail marketing. said "85 million within 15 minutes" during an interview about the Bay Street (N. Calif.) store grand opening. There were 50 stores open at the time.

At the San Francisco store grand opening press briefing, in Feb, 2004, Sr. V-P Ron Johnson said "well over 100 million in the United States within 15 miles of an Apple retail store," and repeated that figure during a Rhode Island talk three months later. There were 75 stores open at the time.

Second, did anyone at Apple ever use the phrase "90 percent within 15 minutes/miles?" I cannot find any reference to it.

So, we're left with this map of the current situtation, and some four year-old demographic information. However, based on Apple's U.S. store locations since 2004, it likely that the "100 million" figure hasn't increased all that much--many new stores have gone into existing regions. Based on the current population of almost 305 million, even doubling the old figure would still be just 66 percent of the population within 15 miles of an Apple store.

I've corrected the original front page story. Keep the comments coming!

Boise Spokane Florida coast Cleveland area eastern Pennsylvania Mass. & RI Carolina-Georgia corridor west of Detroit Milwaukee (WI)