There are several issues that can be problems or blessings, they mainly stem from distance and population but there are times when attitude also matters.
Small populations mean low turnover affects supply in all but staples. If goods have a limited shelf life like fruit and vegetables this means either there is a risk they will be old and stale or merchants will not carry them because the level of waste is too high. If you have to buy a whole box of asparagus and sales are so slow you have to throw half out you can’t make money.
Low population also means less popular goods, even if durable, can be a commercial liability. This means little in the way of speciality items and merchants trying to bring up their overall turnover by keeping several classes of goods. The result can be that they don’t do any of them well.
If you have the population to support a shoe shop the chances are it will not support two so often there is no local competition. Buyers are caught between buying locally and paying higher prices and travelling a good distance to a regional centre that has several shoe stores.
Restaurants have a hard time. The low population density is the primary problem but the residents not having the habit of eating out adds to it. Dining out is not something one does on a whim but it’s a planned expedition. The result is the quality of food often descends to the lowest common denominator (steak and chips or poor imitation Cantonese) or is only available for lunch.
Higher prices are too often blamed on distance. Sure delivery outside the metro area costs more but nowhere near as much as claimed. The other factors are lack of economies of scale, lack of competition, inefficiency and just because they can. The absurd discrepancies in (for example) fuel prices happen in the country too and they all have to pay more for haulage. In extreme cases the merchant can exploit the locals mercilessly, and worse they may not realise it, see this story.
On the plus side you live in a community. If there are only a few thousand people in the valley over a period of time it is possible to get to know a fair number of them at least by sight or by name. There is the time and the desire to get to know people and to chat. If there is a queue at the counter because the customer in front is in conversation with the merchant nobody complains, they will quietly wait their turn or join in.
“Country time” is real and it is good. It is all to do with the number of interpersonal transactions you are likely to have in a day. In the big smoke the turnover that keeps prices down prevents the merchant from saying more than an insincere “have a nice day”, the queue is too long and the human mind cannot cope with dealing with 10,000 strangers other than superficially, rather than the merchant spreading his investment in his fellow man microscopically thin there will be none at all.
Online shopping is a boon to the country. It is an extension of the old store catalog idea. The Traveller would drop off the new catalog with every new delivery and these would be scrutinised intently, before an order was placed to be delivered next time round the circuit. The web is much bigger and better and, despite many flaws, the parcel post system does work most of the time (if you are patient) and the cost is not much more in regional and nearer country areas. Truly remote areas have transport problems of another scale altogether.
So for those considering a tree change observe and study carefully before making your move as shopping (and other everyday actions) can be different.