Bad weather bore the brunt of the blame as retailers delivered another underwhelming round of first-quarter results on Wednesday.
But former Bloomingdale's CEO Michael Gould said there's another underlying issue in the sector that's stifling its success: There's not enough risk-taking or newness.
"You're a prisoner of the quarterly report," he said. "The problem in the business today is that risk-taking and fashion is an oxymoron."
In a competitive environment where retailers should be focused on differentiating their assortments from competitors, Gould said many are instead focused on an exit strategy, such as how they can mark down or return merchandise that doesn't sell well.
He pointed to specialty retailer Urban Outfitters' first-quarter performance as an example of the importance of the assortment, as its on-trend Free People and Anthropologie units posted big comparable-store sales gains, while its struggling namesake division saw a double-digit decline.