Kodak used to be its own distributor. If you were interested in selling Kodak products, it was relatively easy to become a "dealer", in which case you would get a large amount of support.
If you were a fairly successful dealer, you would get the very best prices from Kodak. The volumes necessary for "best" pricing weren't inconsequential, but they were certainly achievable for a store (or chain) that promoted the product.
Kodak's costs then were probably high, but I expect they didn't even come close to what they would be now if they still used the same business model.
They are clearly attempting to move to a model where most retailers would need to buy through distributors. This probably makes a lot of sense, because I expect most of the retailers (other than the very largest) currently buy most of their inventory through distributors.
Our angst with this issue may be misplaced. It may be that we should be encouraging the evolution of better distributors.
Would J & C be better as a distributor than as a direct marketer? Who knows, but that may be an example of a potential solution.
I still think that a combination of an internet based marketer with small, flexible storefronts with limited inventory commitments might work.