How to Put 370 Million Apple Store Visitors in Perspective [Update]

[Update: This article originally focused on Apple's quarterly foot traffic of 120 million people through its retail stores. It has been updated to focus on the 370 million people who visited an Apple Store in 2012. - Bryan]

Apple CEO Tim Cook reminded us on Tuesday that 370 million people visited an Apple Store during 2012. It's a stunning number, and we thought it would be interesting to put together some pretty charts that helps put that total in perspective.

Mr. Cook mentioned the number during his on-stage interview with Bill Shope at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference. Apple has long cited the number of customers through its doors as a prime reason why they company doesn't need to participate in trade shows such as Macworld/iWorld or CES.

Let's start with by comparing this number to some other big and popular things. For instance, Disney's theme park empire is legendary. In 2011 (the most recent year numbers are available), Disney saw 125 million people through its gates (The Atlantic originally compared this annual number to Apple's quarterly number).

Apple Store Visitors

All numbers for 2012, except for Disney, which is for 2011
Chart by The Mac Observer

This doesn't make for a direct comparison, of course. Disney's parks are far larger, but there are only 13 of them compared to roughly 394 Apple Stores that were open in 2012. There are other considerations, but our intent is simply to offer some perspective on Apple's foot traffic.

A more interesting number to us, however, is the notion that far more people visited an Apple Store than went to a Major League Baseball game in 2012 (74.9 million, according to ESPN). Again, it's not direct comparison, but it does put Apple's popularity in comparison.

We found it interesting because baseball is an American institution. It's monolithic. It's a thing, so to speak, but many more people are taking a trip to an Apple Store than watching a ball game live.

That difference is even more stark if you look at the number of people who went to an NFL football game in 2012 (17.2 million, according to ESPN). Both sporting platforms have far, far more viewers on TV than ticket buyers in a stadium, but we're talking visitors, here.

How about the biggest TV events in the U.S? How do they compare? The Grammy Awards in 2012 claimed 39.9 million viewers of the award ceremony, less than a third of Apple's total. That's a one-night event, but again, our point is perspective.

The Super Bowl is bigger still, with an average viewership of 111.3 million people watching the Super Bowl in 2012, according to Reuters. The NFL claimed that more than 160 million people total watched the game for at least 6 minutes. Note that this is still not as many people as Apple saw in its retail stores.

One area where Apple is dwarfed is the number of people buying movie tickets. In the U.S. alone, some 1.37 billion people bought movie tickets in 2012, an impressive number considering that U.S. population sits at 315.3 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Still, as shown in the chart below, Apple's total retail traffic is a surprisingly significant percentage of that total, at 27 percent.

Apple Store vs. Movie Tickets

Chart by The Mac Observer

We thought it appropriate to look at Apple's retail visitor total as a percentage of world population, which the Census Bureau estimates to be 7.07 billion. What's surprising, is that Apple's traffic is a more-than-discernible sliver of the total available pie, as shown below.

Apple Store vs. Global Population

Chart by The Mac Observer

For those keeping score at home, approximately 5.2 percent of the world visited an Apple Store in 2012.

A couple of commenters wanted to see Apple's retail traffic compared to other retailers. That seems like a splendid idea, so let's look at Best Buy and Wal-mart.

Best Buy has some 1,100 stores around the world, counting its Express locations and affiliate locations under different brand names. According to a Best Buy PDF (full of PowerPoint slides), the company had some 600 million in-store visitors in fiscal 2012. That's roughly 62 percent more customers than Apple with almost three times as many stores.

Wal-mart is the largest retailer on the planet, with more than 4,500 locations in the U.S. alone, and another 1,500+ spots in the rest of the world. Tracking down specifics for Wal-mart foot traffic was difficult, but the company's "Our Story" webpage claimed 200 million visitor each and every week.

Accordingly, the chart below shows Wal-mart with 10.4 billion visitors per year, much more than the total population of the world (above). Wal-mart also employs some 2.1 million people.

Apple Store vs. Retail Giants

Chart by The Mac Observer

In that, Apple's visitor count seems small, even though Apple's fleet of retail stores generate more profit per square foot than any other chain in the world, including luxury store Tiffany's.