I try to support local shops when I can but they always seem to carry one or two brands when it comes to bindings or boards, and they will always talk bad about every other brand other than the ones in their shop. At least the ones here. I will say that yes, they are loads more knowledgeable than your average salesmen at say sports authority but sometimes when they only carry one or two brands its hard not to question whether or not they believe what they are preaching. I do however buy my shades, goggles, jackets and such exclusively through local shops.
Oh and I second your REI comment. I remember going into REI a couple years back looking for some new pants, and I asked the gal who was trying to assist me, what the waterproof rating was of a certain pant, because it was missing a tag, and she looked at me and said. "I'm not sure. Wait, what do you mean by waterproof rating?" smh..