I read that article through and through, even between the lines. Due to my occupation, many of you will colour me biased, but I think he hit the nail on the head, particularly wrt community building.
Now, I've read a couple of posts telling me that I need to do my job better, and I agree; EVERYONE can do their job better, whatever it might be. However, working in the bicycle retail/service industry does not pay well enough to keep people involved who do not work in it for the love of it. I know many people who've gone away from the bike industry simply because they cannot afford to feed their family on what they make. The only way I can see to change this, in the face of all that is now available online, is to significantly increase service rates.
As for educating my customers and all that, I have some very astute customers. They know what they want and will research their purchases prior to coming to me. Shopping around is good, but there is not an even playing field in the purchase of goods between brick-and-mortar, and online mail order.
I don't blame the distributors- they also have service staff and all other associated costs to deal with. They also help to support the community by offering employment to enthusiasts. There used to be plenty to go around, but now that almost everything produced is available online, these businesses are drying up. Who gets the money now? Underpaid local bike industry folk? Nope. Offshore mega online mail order warehouses? Yup. I know where I'd rather my money went.
Recently, a good friend and customer asked me to help him determine which new drivetrain he should get. I ended up with a list of components, and when I compared his online supplier list to my catalogue pricing, I found that 6 out of 7 current model year items were priced below my cost. We agreed that I should make some money on his order, but to be honest, making 5-10% on these parts does not cover my costs to order them for him. So, as much as I'd like to help him out, it's in both our best interests, (for this one particular deal) that his money go to another continent and not recirculated into his local community.
It's always argued that it's strictly about a dollar figure. The best thing about that letter is that it tells people who understand what they are reading that it's about more than just dollars. But then again, if one can understand the gist of the article and 'get it' they likely already understand the issue anyway.