… your local dealer generally isn’t in business to “rip you off.” They value your continued business. I often find gear at the local dealer that is within the same price range as I can find it online. If there is a difference it is usually made up in shipping costs from the online vendor. Generally speaking I find prices within $10-$15 so. For that small a difference I will support the local dealer, plus there is the added advantage of being able to try it on at the dealer, which can be a big advantage. A recent example was some Sidi boots for my wife. I checked a few places online before looking at the local shop. Price at the local shop was going to be $11 over the average online price (+shipping). She went to the shop to try them on, didn’t at all like how they fit and purchased something different anyway. Now of course when I do find the occasional huge price difference the local shop can’t match, or if it is an item my local deal simply doesn’t carry, I don’t hesitate to make an online purchase. There is no doubt you can find some big bargains online that the local shops can’t always match, particularly on closeout items.
I also agree with your comments on local dealers supporting the MSF classes. They do around here as well, and a handful of them have an arrangement with the training companies to offer gear at discount prices to MSF graduates. My wife and I went to a local Honda dealer (because it was the closest one), but they sell their stock of jackets and helmets at a 50% discount if you show the MSF card you get when you pass the BRC.
Which brings up one last point, there is a lot of markup in a lot of gear. It can never hurt to talk to your local dealer. Let them know what prices you found online and see if they can come down a little in price to be more inline. They may not be able to come down all the way to the online price, but often they have enough wiggle room to make you comfortable with the local purchase.