This is a good point and you can make the dealer system work for you.
Compile a clear and concise list of what you want to buy.
Then go to the db maker's site of the brand you chose and cut and paste every dealer they list to an email.
Send your list to every dealer in your country, or in the EU every country asking price and delivery dates.
Be sure to do this in one e-mail so the dealers know they are competing and mention you have cash in hand and are ready to buy today.
You may have to send this e-mail a few times to get their attention.
Some dealers won't respond, some will be angry that you are doing a compare price shop, but some will want to move product and will offer you a deal, usually saving you thousands.
Keep your buying decision based on price. The manufacturer may want to defer the support and repair of a digital back through the dealer system, but they are ultimately responsible for any fix and the web makes it easy to find the e-mail and contact information for all the db maker's management, so if you have a problem you can get a response and if you have a hardware problem, the dealer doesn't fix it, the maker does, so buy on price.
Now that this forum has representation from every manufacturer you can get most support questions answered here.
Setting the cat out among the pigeons, I did exactly that in 2005 when I went shopping for my first MFDB, what I now call the Motha F**king Dastardly Bastard I found out that all dealers have certain territorial privileges and also restrictions outside which they are not allowed to sell. For example, if you're from New York, a dealer from Los Angeles should not be able to sell you a back if you have a dealer in your city. So, almost all said to me, see your local dealer although some were quite willing to deal at the risk of losing their dealerships. I figured these dealers were trying to make whatever money they could to cover the cost of the demo back and then content themselves with selling Canon and Nikon henceforth.
I also got a few quotes from dealers outside of the USA. Some were not allowed to sell outside of their territories and told me so outright but some said sure, it mattered not a whit what the colour of your bills were, money is money. To cut to the chase, when I sat down to compare quotes finally, I found a $5500.00 differential for exactly the same product, with freebies like a HP Ipaq and CF cards to boot, offered by the non-American dealer ($22500 vs. $27995.00). At the same time, I also found out that the American distributor of that back offered the same back as a special student deal to photography students at a very slightly higher price than was offered to me. Putting two and two together, I figured out that the same product was being marked up by a further $5500.00 by the American distributor.
Caveat, the warranty only holds in the territory from which it is being sold. As an aside, in the 1990s, there were certain makes of cameras and lenses which were marked up 40% over what you would pay for them in countries outside the good old USA. Those who have been around long enough know what I am talking about. In fact, Robert White of the UK did a roaring trade selling these cameras and lenses to American customers. Don't blame it on a weak greenback. Taking the prevailing foreign exchange rate and converting them directly, there was still the 40% mark up clear as daylight. Consider that the non-American dealers also have their own profit margins built in. We are talking about quite a margin.
That was in 2005. Perhaps suggested retail prices have equalised across the globe. However, every market has its own cost of doing business, sales tax structure and price of greatest resistance above which products will not sell.
Now, I have friends who are dealers. They have overheads, they have to make a profit to stay in business. I understand that. I do not expect them to sell at their cost. But it is insulting to my intelligence when someone comes along and says that the margins are not high and yet not reveal numbers because what is not high to that someone may well be high to another. It is a value judgment best made by the person himself. Don't pretend to make the judgment call for me and then leave it at that.
In this arena, MFDB makers compete amongst themselves for shelf space. Give an insufficient margin and the dealer won't carry your product because it is simply not worth his time UNLESS you are a market leading product. And these companies know how they stack up against the competition. Margins are the same across the board UNLESS you're that 800-pound gorilla. And you know whether you are.
This is what I learnt about this industry in 2005: large national distributors get 50 percentage points on a product. The smaller national distributors may get about 45 percentage points and more if they meet a certain sales target. Dealers get on average 33.33 points, ranging from 25 points for very small dealers to 40 points for large proactive dealers. On top of that, in the USA for example, the American distributor even marks them up higher because this is 'what the market can bear' with the unfortunate situation that you can oftentimes find the same product selling outside of the USA at below the American dealer's cost! Some companies set up their own distributorships in large markets like the USA because they get to keep the distributor margin then and are free to set prices as much as the market can bear.
The distributor is the direct customer of the manufacturer. The dealer is the direct customer of the distributor. And you, the photographer, are the direct customer of the dealer. The manufacturer does not sell to the photographer. It sells to the distributor who commits to a certain number of backs a year. This is what keeps the factory in production and this is why the manufacturer will not sell directly to the end user except in circumstances where there isn't a distributor or dealer. It simply cannot sit and wait for orders to come in one by one. A manufacturer gets a commitment from its worldwide distributors on certain sizes of order based on the projected market size (on a quarterly basis, for example, dependent on their terms with each other). The distributors pay up, the factory goes into production for that quarter. The sale is done and so on. And it is up to the distributor to sell his backs to his dealers. Of course, they (manufacturer, distributor and dealer) all agree to share on Advertising and Promotion.
You can work out these margins for yourself if you look at the number of backs sold a year, the revenue of the company and its annual profits. Hey, these are slow moving items and I think that they are entitled to their margins. I have attended trade shows of electronic products such as the Las Vegas CES as a member of the trade, which could be classified in the same category. These margins are pretty much par for course for this category of goods.
I leave all these as food for thought.
Flame retardant suit on.