Upload & Sell: Off
Joe, I have to disagree about the stores. I think they're brilliant, though that's solely based on my experience with the Munich store.
I can only speak from my own experience, but before the one in Munich opened, it was painful to visit normal higher-end camera stores in Munich and try anything Leica. The stock allotment was usually quite limited, or as one pro-shop staffer explained to me, nearly impossible to get any stock in the first place (this was in late 2010 during Leica's inventory crunch). Staff in those stores were understandably busy dealing with customers wanting to see all sorts of different brands. It wasn't an environment where someone could wander in and spend some leisurely time asking questions and trying gear.
I think this last point is especially relevant to the (rich) clientele Leica is after with the placement of stores in trendy, expensive shopping districts. These types of buyers expect personalized service and quite probably would be off-put by 'normal' camera store environments. It's also in Leica's interest to be able to showcase their wares in an attractive manner that generally is impossible in regular stores, competing for shelf space with much higher volume sellers from Canikony. The pro-shop I referred to above had a Nikon pro-shop within it.
My biggest apprehension walking into the Munich store the very first time was that I'm not a rich-looking guy (nor am I rich) and being received by snooty, condescending sales staff, or simply ignored (like whenever my GF would drag me into the LV, etc., boutiques down the street ). At least in Munich - no worries. The staff have been great. What I received was patience and understanding (for my 50 Lux problem, as well as my obviously non-native German), an easy way to have equipment shipped to Solms, and a great chance to try various lenses. The staff seemed quite into the gear as well, which made shop-talk enjoyable. I guess my point is, behind that veneer of upscale pretentiousness, it's actually an enjoyable photographic environment. Does it come at a cost? Definitely, but the experience might just be worth it (I wish it was a more common retail experience).
But I know what you're getting after. My take on Leica's decision with the stores is they really, desperately need, those types of (rich) buyers to pay the freight, otherwise the M and S systems are too niche to generate what seems to be the kind of revenue needed to maintain relatively cutting edge R&D and keep the company relevant among actual photographers. Kind of like airlines rely on first and business class flyers so that the rest of us can have a nice, reasonably priced holiday from time to time.
So, yes, I imagine there is fat in the Leica system. But is that such a bad thing, within reason? I think it's great they can staff the stores with 4-5 courteous, attentive, clerks each day, rather than a couple who are constantly frazzled. Likewise with their marketing and events, which I'm sure are very costly, but also necessary to build the brand. Bottom line is it keeps them in business and employs many very skilled people, whether in Germany or Portugal (or Australia!). Quite certainly more people than would be possible if they focused on the low-end, high volume, low margin market.
Somewhat OT, but I'm getting a discouraged by society's ceaseless quest to get more for less. Sure, there is logic to fat-cutting, but not when it's down to the bone. It's certainly human nature to look for good deals, but I'd prefer to see a bit more focus on value than simply cost.