Clearly the number one draw for Costco is the low margins and personally, I think there's a place for them in the grand scheme of things. And if your option is no board or what's at Costco, you have to pull the trigger on the Costco board. The stark reality is that local and online retailers can't compete on price with a Costco, it woud be fool-hardy to even try.
But local retailers, which are going to charge more, have a few things to offer.
Selection being one. I'm not a big fan of the wakeboard company boards, but still being able to choose between LF, CWB, HL and Ronix and maybe IS and P5 is at least a 300% increase in selection over the Osia.
Online retailers like Towanza offer what 15 different brands? It's a different market segment, that segment that BOUGHT the Osia last year and now wants a different board.
Expertise is another - wanna venture a guess what the answer will be if you're asking your friendly Costco employee if you can change fins?
No not a fin like from Finland, a FIN on the board!
NOT being treated like a criminal is another - nothing is as much fun as the yahoo at the door checking your receipt against your purchases! Up against the wall mofo!
Online stores are probably going to toss in a T-shirt and I know that my local Pro-Shop hands out little things like stickers to kids. It's just a nicer shopping experience. Some folks don't mind the "did you steal that?" queue, and some prefer a free t-shirt for being a patron.
NOT having to schlup your board the 3.27 miles from the rack in sporting goods to the cash register through the labryinth of aisles (did we go north at housewares?!) and then the next 4.56 miles out to your car.
Although that is good exercise.
Still local or online retailers don't make your shopping experience a trek through the Andes.
I think the biggest area that local retailers and online stores and the non-chienese imported manufacturers can compete on is that you'll get a board that you won't outgrow that first season. It's probably cheaper to pay the $650 once rather than the $250 AND $650 a little later.
There is ALWAYS going to be competition, if it's not Costco, it'll be Online Retailers vs Brick and Mortar stores, I think you just have to differentiate yourself into a segment of the market that's big enough to support your store. Making the sport more accessible through channels like Costco won't be bad in the long-run for shops, IMO.