Wall Street's recent distaste with the retail sector is evidence that the economic layout is changing for public retail companies, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Thursday as the group slid on holiday sales disappointments.
"Welcome to the new economy," Cramer said. "Going forward, you need to understand that not all retailers are created equal anymore, and that [SPDR S&P Retail] ETF doesn't work. And when you're a mall-based chain, Wall Street has no patience for anything disappointing."
The "Mad Money" host spoke on the heels of a difficult few weeks for some storied U.S. retailers: Sears has been teetering on the brink of liquidation, J.C. Penney announced more store closures and Macy's caught a downgrade from Bank of America analysts Thursday after missing holiday sales expectations.
"When you look at the pockets of strength and weakness, it leads you to a simple conclusion," Cramer said. "If you're a mall-based retailer offering relatively full-price goods — like Macy's — and you don't have a phenomenal online business, your stock is getting hammered, often much worse than the actual company is being hammered."
"I think all three can safely be bought at this point as value plays," he said, adding that "they may work better as trades than investments because their stocks are very oversold."