Above: the Lazzaretti workshop in Rome, Italy
You probably hear that a lot, but why? There's no question that independent bicycle dealers (IBD's in industry parlance) are struggling to stay relevant and profitable in today's cycling climate.
The industry and bike dealers in general blame this on internet sales while the bike industry doesn't want you to know (or to remind IBD's) that the margin on new bike sales doesn't even cover the cost of having the product in inventory for sale in most cases.
The Big T has even introduced online sales of their bikes, though you must take delivery (at least for now) at one of their authorized dealers who receives an even smaller margin on this sale than if the bike was on their sales floor.
It's most important to remember that it will NEVER be possible to get your bicycle repaired or serviced (OK, you might be able to plug in an electronic shifting system in the future and get an update) via the internet.
If you don't know how or don't care to work on your bike yourself, a local dealer with skilled, caring technicians is priceless, so by all means give them as much of your business as possible, especially if they've been able to resist the pressure to become a "one-brand store" as is way too common these days, both in the USA and in Italy.
Sadly, these dealers face the pressure from the big brands they carry. The Big T and S greedily try to monopolize the space on the shop floor, shelves and display racks. Nobody's going to claim their bicycles are not excellent, but too often their accessory products are little more than "me-too" products designed to keep competitor's better products out of the store. It's not the dealer's fault!
In our opinion this makes online shopping MORE attractive to the customer, not less. Online retailers rarely have access to Big T or S products so instead they carry other, often better brands, specialty brands offering products they specialize (no pun intended) in. Saddles, shoes, tires, etc. made by companies who make them as their only business are quite often a better product and value than me-too products produced by contract makers and simply branded with the Big T or S logo.
If your local bike shop can't get these products for you, don't blame him but don't settle for me-too products that might not meet your needs either. Check out some of the online bike websites instead. We do this for items (like tires) that are not supplied by our "official suppliers", though ALL of our relationships in that category began with us purchasing the products we liked best, only later convincing the importer/distributor/manufacturer to join us in a marketing partnership.