“Power Lunch” is at the Mall of America outside Minneapolis/St. Paul, to look at alternative energy and consumer activity -- and a surprise definition for "retail stocks."
Here's what some of the guests on the program are saying.
Supervalu CEO Jeff Noddle
Grocery-store sales are a key bellwether of consumer vitality -- and no one pays closer attention than the chief executive at the No. 3 U.S. grocer store chain.
Twin Cities-based Supervalu has store locations spanning Philadelphia to Los Angeles, under regional names including Sav-a-Lot, Shop 'n Save and Scott's Foods. With the Albertsons acquisition, revenue increased from $19 billion to $44 billion -- but not without a lot of challenges, says the CEO.
Noddle points to "a lot of debt" from the purchase as well as the thin margins in the grocery arena. With "slow organic growth in the food industry," Supervalu and its rivals need to work within the space they have and Noddle plans "significant remodeling" for the former Albertsons stores. In the end, though, leaders have to remember that the most important business plan is" pleasing the consumer."
U.S. BioEnergy CEO Gordon Ommen
Crude oil prices keep breaking record highs -- and that's good news for corn-ethanol producer U.S. BioEnergy.
The company is only three years years old, but is already the 3rd largest U.S. ethanol producer. A former private-equity investor, Ommen says his strategy is a combination of greenfield building and buyouts; his firm has just closed its sixth acquisition and has four plants under construction.
Are other entrants into the market a threat to U.S. BioEnergy? Not according to Ommen, who says that besides pure sales, blending (mixing ethanol into oil/gasoline stocks) constitutes a growing business unto itself.
Thrivent Portfolio Manager Mike Binger
In the Mall of America, Binger tells CNBC that the consumer impact of the subprime mortgage loan mess may be even more psychological than financial -- and that can hurt walk-in retail traffic this holiday season.
But Binger likes a handful of retailers: he praises Nordstrom as "a little recession-resistant," with prosperous, loyal shoppers; good execution; and a cheap share price. he also likes certain teen retailers, especially Aeropostale.
One pick that may surprise: the strategist recommends Apple, a "hybrid" stock with "great products, innovation -- consumers love them."