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Cramer: Utter Incoherence in Retail

Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 7:08 a.m. EDT on Real Money on Aug. 21. To see Jim Cramer's latest commentary as it's published, sign up for a free trial of Real Money.

NEW YORK ( Real Money) -- If you were at all concerned about the consumer last week, last night you should have left your office scratching your head.

I have now read every single retail conference call since the start of the retail portion of earnings season. With all that information, there's really nothing -- no rhyme or reason to it -- other than to say that the consumer sure likes her home, and sure doesn't care about clothes, unless it is accessories or handbags. Even in handbags, though, they have to be of the highest quality.

How else can you explain these dichotomies? First, Coach (COH) was hideous, while Michael Kors (KORS) was great. Now, Coach has a lower price point and tries to portray itself as a China play. It turns out that you've got a double-edged sword here, though -- because the "sure-America-is-weak but-soon-China-will-be-important" trade doesn't look so good when the U.S. is real weak and the Chinese aren't paying up for Coach bags.

Meanwhile, even the cheapest of the Kors bags are selling well, both wholesale and in the company's own stores. Kors is a 40% grower, and that's going up against really difficult comparisons. It beat the numbers by a staggering 23%. Fossil (FOSL), too -- which I regard as an expensive-accessories name, meaning it charges you a heck of a lot for its goods -- reported a terrific quarter. That stock has been on a tear.

But then we come up against Ralph Lauren (RL), and that shortfall is totally mystifying. Really, I mean it. That one can't be explained vs. Kors unless Lauren has really lost its edge, and I haven't heard that from anywhere. Then we have that abomination from Nordstrom (JWN), just when it should have delivered a surprising quarter. Yet, Estee Lauder (EL), a quintessential Nordstrom item, had a terrific quarter.

What the heck are we supposed to conclude?

When you go over the Macy's (M) call and the less-descriptive Wal-Mart (WMT) information, you just have a depiction of the consumer in a steep slide -- although Macy's did say its back-to-school season was going well. Macy's commented on women's apparel being weak, and it didn't say negative things about housewares. Wal-Mart, though, pretty much said everything was weak.

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