So, in the long run, they can be cheaper and the staff are more knowledgeable than average (for retail) about the things they sell. That means they hire enthusiasts (hikers, campers, cyclists, etc., and not random JC student who do not care much about what they sell.
If anyone is ever in Chanonix, the place to go is Snell Sports; three generations of the owner's family has ran the place and they literally have almost any piece of gear to take your from the Alps to K2. If you're a non EU resident you can even get the tax refunded. Snell is my model for what REI could have been. Instead REI is really just a Walmart for the Starbucks crowd. Admittedly, I do like REI and am a member, but it's really a shadow of what it could be.
I absolutely can't fault the quality of it. As an added bonus, it seems to be waterproof even though this wasn't advertised.