I live in a very rural area and the closest quilt shop is about 1 1/2 hrs away so I do a lot of my fabric purchasing on line. Fabric is one of those things you really want to touch and feel before purchasing but I've found if I stick to name brands I know, it works our quite well. Of course, I'm always looking for a deal as well. One of my favorite spots to look for fabric is QuiltShops.com.
This site is linked to about 200 quilt shops. You can search by color, manufacturer, design (apples, bears, tulips, etc.) or sometimes I put in something like "sale apples" because I only want fabric on sale. It's a great place to window shop and find new designs even if you're not in the market for new fabric at the moment.