Amazon is buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. More than just a store with organic shampoos and obscure fruits, Whole Foods is a distribution network through which Amazon can now reach millions of customers—particularly the high-income, selective shoppers who are likely to live near the stores.
To figure out what Amazon is getting for all that money, we crunched the numbers on the geography of Whole Foods in the United States. Whole Foods’ 440 stores tend to be in dense urban areas—6% of all American households are less than a mile from the stores’ coconut water, grass-fed beef, and extensive offerings of flavored tempeh.
To get these numbers, we first drew circles around every Whole Foods location. Looking just at Manhattan, Amazon is now automatically within a mile of mostly everyone on the island.
We then looked at the characteristics of the people who live in those circles by analyzing census tracts— small geographic areas that typically have around 4,000 residents. We estimated the reach of Amazon’s new storefront network by adding up the populations of those tracts. It turns out Whole Foods’ US stores are within just 3 miles of 75 million Americans.
The census data tells us a lot more about these people, too. We can see that by buying stores in dense, desirable areas, Amazon has gained access to wealthy consumers. Fully one-third of American households with annual incomes over $100,000 live within 3 miles of a Whole Foods.
We don’t yet know whether CEO Jeff Bezos will turn every Whole Foods into one of those creepy Amazon stores with no people. The important thing for Amazon, though, is that it is closer than ever to its customers, offering things they need to buy nearly every day, making it more convenient than ever. That is, a little bit more like Walmart.