Cramer says ‘government was a bad actor,’ allowing big retailers to get bigger in coronavirus crisis

CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Wednesday that governments forcing some retailers to close and others to stay open was “somewhat rigged” and has permanently damaged smaller businesses. 

“If you were Walmart, the thing you would most want to do is have the government shut down your competition, and that happened,” Cramer said on “Squawk Box.” 

Cramer’s comments came as big box retailers report their quarterly earnings, showing their business results during the lockdowns.

Walmart, for example, reported its fiscal first quarter earnings on Tuesday, showing online sales that rose 74% year-over-year and same-store sales surging by 10%. Doug McMillon, the company’s CEO, spoke with CNBC earlier on Wednesday and discussed the company’s online strategy. 

Cramer complimented the shopping experience at the retail giant and the hiring it has done in recent months to deal with increased demand, but said the government has unfairly hurt smaller competitors. 

“Walmart is essential. Walmart’s the biggest grocer in the country. So they deserve all the greatness they have … they’re a good citizen,” Cramer said. “But at the same time, the government was, I thought, a bad actor in the sense that they let some big guys become even bigger.”

On Tuesday, the “Mad Money” host highlighted increased demand at Costco and Home Depot as proof that retail giants were winners in the coronavirus economy. 

Cramer, who warned in March that the United States could be left with only three retailers if the lockdown policies went too far, expanded on the theme during “Squawk on the Street,” saying that the increased costs for safety in stores and for employees will also hurt smaller retailers as they try to bounce back. 

“This may have ended up happening one day, but there always were boutique stores that could survive. And now those boutique stores have lost a base of customers and … a base of workers who really were the people who might have known the customers. The big guys won,” Cramer said. 

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