Hardware stores have better prices on very limited stock. Get used to the idea of doing business with both. Don't beat up the electrical suppliers over price. They offer service when you need it & usually deliver. We'll all be in trouble if they go out of business & leave us with the hardware stores.
I noticed the same but if you keep track and tell the suppliers about the prices and pay your bills on time they will re adjust. I have been trying to do most of my purchasing from the same place that has also seemed to help.the squeeky wheel gets the grease so dont be afraid to bitch about prices that are to high. thats been my exp so far.
I would say 95% of my material comes from one supply house. However, when it comes to lighting I will shop three different supply houses.
I rarely buy things from the big box stores. If I am on a jobsite and I need a common item I will find the closest big box.
Also, my supply house gives me a 2% discount if I pay my bill in full by the 10th day of the next month. Might not seem like a lot but it adds up. I also pay my bills by credit card which earns me some reward points.