I was responding to another thread, and I realized this could use it's own thread.
Some of you may be wondering why your lbs doesn't stock all the parts you want, or why they make you buy more of something than you actually need.
The fact of the matter is that inventory costs money, and stocking inventory that won't sell is the equivalent of sticking a stack of $100 bills on the shelf and letting them rot. There's a fine balance to strike between stocking everything your customers want and keeping enough money loose to order what you can't anticipate your customers wanting.
Furthermore, the bicycle industry is so focused on the next new thing that it is extremely un-profitable to keep around old stock that MIGHT someday sell at full price if you can blow it out the door and recoup some cash to order the new stuff that you'll actually sell soon. There are a VERY FEW shops out there that can afford to stock old stuff. There are several in Madison, WI. I walked into Budget Bicycle Center and found more NOS mountain bike stuff than I could have ever dreamed existed. Yellow Jersey is well known for having obscure old stuff you wouldn't imagine you could find new (individual freewheel cogs? you bet!). They're the exceptions, and they are able to afford to do it for one two reasons.
1. They have a large-scale reputation for having esoteric stuff.
2. Their NOS inventory is subsidised by massive sales of other things somehow.
There are other shops that focus on very specific things and have amazing inventories of things that other shops wouldn't ever have (not because they don't want to) like that Suzue Promax CF hubset you've been lusting over. The shop I work at probably won't ever have a pair sitting on the shelf, because that isn't our focus. We can get them for you, and we will be happy to do so, but we just don't have them. On the other hand, if you're looking for a Tour-Easy recumbent in your size, we've probably got it. Yojimbo's doesn't. If you are fortunate enough to have a shop in your area that specializes in the facet of riding that you are into, it's likely you'll find parts that you want in stock.
you may wonder why your LBS doesn't have the colored spoke nipples you want, and they won't sell you the exact number you need. The fact of the matter is that colored bits are very personal, and you don't tend to sell much of them, and they're expensive. If they sell you 32 blue nipples and 32 red nipples, they've got 68 red nipples and 68 blue nipples gathering dust in the shop, tying up money that could be spent on innertubes that will actually sell quickly.
So all that said, how do you help your shop help you?
1. Be willing to wait for an order to come in rather than jumping immediately to the internet to solve all your problems. Most shops can get you better turn-around on special order items than you'll get ordering them on the internet.
2. Be willing to pay a little more to get exactly what you want. If a shop orders 12 of an item, they're going to get a better deal than they will if they order one of the same item. Different sizes of the same item don't usually count for bulk buying, so they're far more likely to buy sizes they think they'll sell than they are to buy sizes they won't sell as much of.
3. Be willing to help create the market. The fact of the matter is that shop owners are not mind-readers. They will never start to stock the items you're looking for if you don't ask for them. Women's specific products have come to be part of the market because there was money to be made in the sales of such items. Someone somewhere started asking people to start making them.
Your local bike shop can only survive and provide you with the services you need if you actually spend money and time and help them help you instead of buying things off the internet.