Jim Cramer warned investors not to write off the consumer, yet. There is so much mixed data coming out of retail right now, it would be a mistake to assume all things in retail are negative.
One could assume that the consumer is not spending based on the negative stories Macy's, Nordstrom and Gap told. But things became confusing when TJX, Home Depot and Wal-Mart all reported fantastic numbers on Tuesday.
"We have to assume that the consumer is just not shopping for the same kinds of things, notably apparel, and it involves a big shift in attitude and behavior," the "Mad Money" host said.
In fact, Cramer thinks it is totally understandable that no one knows what people are spending their money on. The clues have been so varied and hard to read that he can't blame anyone for being confused.
Seriously, they are bizarre. Macy's, for example, said it was hurt by extremely warm weather and a strong dollar. Nordstrom said it was hurt by traffic declines but did not share why traffic declined.
Perhaps these stores were hurt by Amazon? Or one could assume that people aren't going to the mall as much as they used to, which would explain the weakness from Gap stores and J Crew.
But then Cramer learned that Home Depot, TJX and Wal-Mart all reported fantastic quarters. All three companies have one thing in common — they aren't in the mall.
Maybe the mall is going out a style, and people would rather shop on their handheld devices?
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And while all three companies have a strong online presence, each offers different products. Home Depot said appliances, tools, plumbing décor, lightning and hardware all outperformed. That means people are fixing up their houses. Given Home Depot's strong 7 percent same-store-sales gain, Cramer interpreted that as meaning people would rather spend money on their homes than apparel.
As for TJX, it provided another piece to the consumer puzzle. Cramer learned that if the consumer is going to spend on apparel, they will go for the cheapest brand name clothing. Additionally, its Homegoods division put up terrific numbers. This overlaps with the Home Depot theory that customers are spending money on home improvement rather than apparel.
So then how the heck do you factor in Wal-Mart? Cramer thinks Wal-Mart could be signaling that many of the changes recently made in personnel and online initiatives are working. Its better-than-expected earnings were driven by management's efforts to fix the place up.
"I know it's early, but you have to believe there is a positive story brewing here, admittedly against lowered expectations, and that the fruits of CEO Doug McMillon's earnest efforts have begun to pay off," Cramer added.