The entire retail sector is suffering in an unfavorable environment of shifting consumer demand, and as a result, for investors looking to bet on retail names the opportunities are few and far between, CNBC's Jim Cramer said.
"I'm searching for a period where apparel was this bad in this country," Cramer said on "Squawk on the Street" on Thursday. "What sticks out at you, whether it be Saks (SKS), whether it be Nordstrom (JWN), whether it be Macy's (NYSE:M), Wal-Mart (WMT), whether it be Target (TGT)-something happened. It's almost as if we've all decided to go to the thrift shop. Either that, or we're buying everything on Amazon (AMZN)."
(Related: Cramer: 'Giant reset' looming for markets )
"Apparel has stopped in this country. I've never seen this," he said. Cramer explained that many in the market are blaming a shift away from apparel to housing-related spending, which is supported by recent strength from companies like Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW).
"We can step back and say 'What is there to buy in the sector?' and I don't have a lot," he said. "I struggle over what to buy in retail."
In the retail sector, even top-quality management is having a hard time in a "very, very difficult market," Cramer said, although the companies with poor execution are much worse off.
Struggling to find a bright spot, Cramer said that TJX (TJX) CEO Carol Meyrowitz is "probably the hero this quarter, because they do have apparel and they have Europe. TJX is very unsung."
(Cramer bullish picks: Best Buy, JC Penney, Home Depot set to go higher )
At the back of the pack is Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), which disappointed Wall Street estimates and showed a 10 percent drop in same-store sales in this quarter. "ANF is a disaster," Cramer said. Whereas at J.C. Penney (JCP), "it was not as bad as it could have been" for the troubled retailer.
Target, on the other hand, "is a very good company," Cramer said. "So when they miss like this it isn't just Target ... this is not one of those cases where it is just the company itself."
(Related: Retail: It's (almost) all bad news )
"I'm very concerned about what's happening in this country," he said. "The stars are looking real bad."
-By CNBC's Paul Toscano. Follow him on Twitter @ToscanoPaul and get the latest stories from "Squawk on the Street."
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