NEW YORK -- "Leadership in a Changing World" is the theme of the International Mass Retail Association's annual convention, which begins Saturday at the Sheraton Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The merchandise and technology exposition, featuring 330 key mass market suppliers, will complement an agenda of seminars running from Saturday through Tuesday. The show is expected to draw more than 1,500 retail and supplier executives.

Here are some highlights of the business sessions:

IMRA's "State of the Association" address, May 21 at 4 p.m., will be given by Donald Soderquist, IMRA chairman and vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores, and Robert Verdisco, IMRA president.

"Consumers and Sourcing: Issues in a Changing World" will discuss an IMRA study, conducted with the Gallup organization, examining American attitudes on imported merchandise and what that means to the future of global sourcing, May 22, 3:45 p.m.

"Technology: Opportunities for the Future" will be presented by Thom Blishok, vice president and head coach of AT&T Global Information Systems, and will offer a glimpse into retail and communication technologies on the horizon, May 22, 5 p.m.

"Your Aging Consumers: Reality vs. Perception," a consumer study on buying habits of the 50-plus population, conducted by Age Wave Inc., will be released May 23, 8 a.m.

"Diversity in the Marketplace," a panel discussion, will examine the Hispanic, African-American and Asian consumer markets and their impact on sales, May 23, 9:45 a.m.

Former congressman, cabinet member and presidential candidate Jack Kemp will discuss "A New Agenda for the Nineties," his views on alternative economic ideas for the U.S., May 23, 11:30 a.m.

"1994 Political Overview" will be provided by Rep. Newt Gingrich (R., Ga.), May 24, 7:45 a.m.

Malcom Forbes Jr. will speak on "Taking Charge of Your Health Care Costs," May 24, 9:15 a.m.

Walter J. Salmon, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, will present "Restoring Credibility to Retail Pricing," May 24, 10:45 a.m.

"The Management of Crisis and Change" will be addressed by Gen. Colin L. Powell (Ret.), discussing the changing world environment and how it will affect people personally and in business, May 24, 1 p.m.Football legend Joe Namath and Bob Shannon, head football coach of East St. Louis Senior High School, who was recently recognized by President Clinton for his work with young people, will be the speakers at the IMRA Sports Breakfast, May 22, 8:30 a.m.

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