Even with employment rising, Jim Cramer has noticed that consumer spending is relatively weak, and he thinks it's because consumers are chained to two things: their phones and their couches.
"It's the purloined letter of how [their] money is spent and where it's spent that matters," the " Mad Money " host said, referencing Edgar Allan Poe's short story about a letter hidden in plain sight.
Cramer argued that rather than spending money on clothes, eating out, and homes, consumers are dishing out large chunks of their paychecks on smartphone payments.
"That's real cash that can't be spent elsewhere, but a smartphone is simply indispensable," Cramer said. "An [Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL)] iPhone is the most prized and cherished purchase any American makes after his car or home."
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As a result, most of consumers' other purchases become tied to the smartphone, which they use to order food, shop online, play games, stream content, and browse social media.
"Even getting in the car became inconvenient versus having what you want delivered to your door when you want it," Cramer said, referencing e-commerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).
There is still some hope for retailers, especially in the home goods space, Cramer said. He said that Home Depot's (NYSE: HD), Lowe's (NYSE: LOW), and TJX's (NYSE: TJX) numbers remain strong because consumers are paying to make their surroundings at home as nice as possible, since that's where they're spending more and more time.
"So what does pry the typical consumer off the couch? Trips to theme parks, hence why Six Flags (NYSE: SIX), Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN), Disney (NYSE: DIS) and Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Universal theme parks are jammed to the gills. Or cruise ships, because they create experiences," Cramer said.
He argued that this is because experiences make for great social media posts, and so the cycle continues.
Cramer's main point was that the consumer hasn't shrunk into the woodwork — just online, and a tidal wave of businesses has followed.
"If you follow that trail you'll know the consumer hasn't gone away. She's just not being counted because she's hiding right in front of your nose, in the last place the professional money managers would think to look," Cramer said.
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