Parcelpaper - 't Partijbriefke NO.10
Why participate in a trade fair?The time when wholesalers came over with “cash” (this is now illegal) to build up their stock is over. In the past the halls of the Exchange were jam-packed with goods for buyers and sellers. Today the diamantaire must not only receive his clients in his office but also go to the client himself. This is the same for diamantaires worldwide who in order to expand their customer bases, must prospect for new ones. Prospecting is a long and laborious task. The diamantaire must go and appeal to potential clients as a sales representative. He comes across wholesalers who do not have sufficient financial strength; or large jewellery factories and wholesalers where the diamantaire may pull up a chair in a waiting hall with other suppliers. Another difficulty entails going to trade fairs and scouring the stands. The jewellery factories that have taken one big expensive stand must make their fair participation financially worthwhile. In this context, priority is given to the potential clients who visit the stall rather than the “intruding” diamantaire-supplier. In some fairs such as L.A. it is not allowed for suppliers to enter.
In recent years an increasing number of companies have wanted to participate in trade fairs. This is a result of the new DTC politics and because those that are not sightholders wish to create a profile for themselves on the international market.
The above should eventually convince the diamantaire to participate in trade fairs. However, this demands preparation and follow up which are as important as the fair itself. And there are some things you should know... By no means should you expect to cover your costs during the trade fair. There is only one trade fair where this is possible — the Hong Kong Jewellery & Watch Fair, where you can sell stones and receive cash at the spot. Trade fairs usually serve to make contacts; to make oneself known and to work towards the future.
Don’t be put off by the presence of large companies. You will certainly have something that the larger firms do not have, maybe better and faster service. You will go through more trouble to find something special for your client. In smaller firms the customers speak directly to the boss and not to numerous salesmen. Many customers would prefer to go a small boutique rather than a large supermarket. Look for a added value whom make the diffirence.
If you decide to participate in a trade fair you must make a choice between hundreds of potential fairs. The first question is: Where do I wish to make my clientele or to expand my customer base? You must make a choice between large trade fairs such as Basel, Hong Kong, Vincenza and Tokyo where you will be put on a waiting list, or the smaller local trade fairs in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Bahrein etc. It is advisable to have a trial participation in a smaller, more affordable trade fair.
You have decided to participate in a trade fair
A 6 MONTHS BEFORE FAIR
The organiser confirms your participation, and will request a deposit in advance to book your exhibition space. At this stage you still have the possibility to negotiate with the organiser for a better place, so carefully study the floorplan of the exhibition space. You usually get a heavy file of all the possible order forms. Read every page carefully and sign only one copy, send it and keep the other one in your own file, If there is no second copy for the exhibitor (which is very rare) you must make a photocopy of it. In the case of a European trade fair you must not forget to order a parking place because during the trade fair it is impossible to find a parking in the area of the exhibition space.
The size of your stand is not important, at some trade fairs the mininum space is 9 square metres, at others 12 square metres. It is not the size of your stand that attracts the customer but the message in your display. What is the message? What is your specialis¬ation or your niche? If you sell very cheap Indian goods in large quantities, then it is advisable to have small dishes in which to present your goods. If you sell fine “Antwerp cut” goods or ideal cuts then provide a few technical drawings of your polished goods. If you sell certificate stones then you must show individual stones, either with the numerous documents, or individually in small boxes. It is advisable to have one slogan in your display or on the front panel above your stand which immediately makes your speciality obvious. You are wasting your time if a client must search for what you do. Clients have so many offers that they do not have time to find out what your speciality is, they will just walk away.
Do not forget to take out a responsibility insurance for the fair. This you can do via your broker or via the fair organiser. At some fairs it is obligatory to take a separate fire insurance.
5 MONTHS BEFORE FAIR
You now know the date and the location of your stand. You can take the booth construction agent of the trade fair, take an independent one in the country where the fair is being held or bring your own stand builder to the fair.
The booth construction agent of the trade fair
You receive a clean and anonymous land amongst the others. If you are not satisfied, you can go back to the organiser who ultimately recommended this stand builder (and receives a commission for this). The stand builder also has a batch of stalls on standby for small incidents such as if a lamp dies or of you wish to have another chair or box in your stall.
The lighting of your display is very important and numerous different types of halogen lamps, spots and neon lighting exist from which to choose, depending on what kind of goods you are exhibiting. Are you presenting white diamonds, coloured diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds or jewellery? Once you have found the right temperature of light, you must take care to write this down for the next fair. During the fair you must pay particlar attention to which type of lighting one can notice the best from a distance. There are displays which attract one from far away and others which fade into the background. If you have not ordered any special lighting from your stand builder, he will give you one neon tube or ordinary spots.
Your own stand builder
You have the opportunity to take an original design that will stand out from the crowd. You must take care that your chosen stand builder receives the rules of the fair (maximum height, construction and demolition times, quay) because, owing to safety measures, the fair organisers are very strict.
You must try that your booth is coming out of the crowd, big posters, short slogans but straight to the point, your logo and colours always the same. Try to keep the same home style for your advertising, web site and folders. Remember that a picture sell better than words.
What you need - booth specifications
It is important that you can close up and lock your showcases and that you have a conveniently arranged stand where you can receive your clients. It is essential that you and your employees can keep an eye on customers at all times. Millions of euros have been stolen over the last decade from all the different trade fairs and increasingly during visiting hours.
Besides your showcases, you need one or more desks and chairs as well as cabinets in which you can file folders and documentation. It is up to you whether you wish to have a small sitting area for your clients. You can have a small kitchen for maintenance. Don’t forget the wastebasket and the hat rack (especially in winter). You can hire everything from the organizers including a fridge, video equipment and stands for your folders. You need a telephone line in case you wish to call your office or to fax or mail clients. The organizers take care of the cleaning and vacuuming of the corridors, the stands and the furniture. If you choose to take care of your stand yourself then you need polishing cloths and a kitchen towel to keep your desks neat. In the mornings you need products to polish the showcases, which become very dirty and full of finger marks towards the evening. You must take care that you also at least have a small scale and a sorting lamp, calculators, small office utensils (scotch tape, eraser, pencils, paperclips) loops, cloths, desk pads, shuffles, sieves, leverage, a bottle of methanol and sorting tweezers.
Personally I have always worked with an Excel-checklist that can be ticked off point by point before leaving. You can use and extend this checklist before each fair since there is always something missing.
Organizing a special event
If you wish to organize an event e.g. a reception or a jewellery catwalk’ during the trade fair; it must always be organized well in advance with the fair organizers. Or you could choose to organize an event outside the fair fur example in a big hotel nearby.
If you wish to arrange a press conference for a special news release, it is better to do this at the fair with a breakfast or a lunch. If you wish to invite the jewelers-factory exhibitors it will be better to arrange this after the fair at about 7pm with a buffet meal which has the advantage that people can wander around and make contacts rather than being obliged to stay seated. This can be paired with a sound and light show on your subject, without overwhelming your guests. Going overboard always results in a negative effect. You can also organize a reception with a well-known speaker about a hot item or on a controversial topic, gemological (synthetic or treated stones, new precious stones), economic (e-commerce, stock control, credits etc) or more politically inclined (e.g. impact of the Kimberley process or import and export regulations in specific countries).
These topics may occasionally seem stale to us as insiders but for the outsider they can be topics about which he or she has read but has not received a good explanation.
It is a good idea to take a small fridge and a coffee machine to offer your visitors a drink. You can buy soft drinks and plastic cups at the local shops. You can also appeal to the fairs catering facility to provide drinks but in this case don’t forget to order in advance. If you want to receive important clients before a reception at your stand, it is possible to order champagne with the necessary snacks beforehand with the catering of the fair.
You must hook a hotel as soon as possible because so many exhibitors and visitors will flock to the area and the best situated hotels will be booked up quickly The first time you will probably have to be satisfied with a hotel that is further away I advise you to put your company on the waiting list for a hotel close to the trade fair. Nothing is more unpleasant than a heavy day on the fair and then having to travel for an hour or two to your hotel.
There are two options; to lock your goods up every night in the organizer’s strong room or to order your own safe at your stand. The first option is the cheapest; you must hand in your goods locked into a box or an attaché-case, against proof of receipt, to the security guards of the collective safe room. You must take into account that you may have to wait 15 to 30 minutes every evening to drop off your goods and every morning to retrieve your goods.
To hire a safe is therefore probably the best solution. Do not take one that is too small as at the end of the day the price difference between the smaller and the bigger safe is insignificant in your total amount of overheads. You can also lock your scale and your computer inside it in the evenings. I personally always advocate making a video recording of the stand and the showcases (this allowed me to foil a professional thieves gang in Italy some time ago).
A Few Tips
If possible one or two people should sell, while a third person should keep an eye on the booth. This person can welcome the visitors and arrange for drinks hut his first priority is to observe the new customers. On your work table there should be as little unnecessary material as possible just what is needed (lamp, desk pad and scales) Do not let more than one parcel be seen by an unfamiliar customer at the time.
Do not be fooled by appearances! Professional thieves often look well groomed and presentable, and appear friendly and courteous. They usually have no visitor’s card or professional card from a jeweler company.
If you go to a trade fair do not leave your briefcase unattended or your jacket with your wallet in it hanging on a chair. Your display cases must always be locked up. Watch out for plastic doors, which are flexible and can be twisted. Thieves rarely come alone so be careful that someone does not attempt to stand in front of you so that you are unable to watch your stand.
It is now the moment to think about an advertising depending your budget, in the fair catalogue or/and in professional issues. Mention your participation on one or more fairs if possible with your booth number.
3 MONTHS BEFORE FAIR
You now have everything and your dossier is complete. Do not forget to put all your proofs of receipt in your file, preferably with coloured folders in between them.
- Correspondence with the organizers to order the stand,
- Order of the stand builder with all the necessary corresponding items (phone, safe etc),
- Hotel: reservation and confirmation,
- Journey: reservation of flight/s and shuttle to the fair or hotel,
- Insurance: make mention of the participation (without amount) and proof from your broker that you received cover. Insurance for your luggage is also advisable as disappearance of suitcases at airports happens regularly it is not rare for your luggage to be broken into also,
- Courier Service for shipping your goods,
- Clients: list of local clients,
- Miscellaneous items.
Concerning your air ticket; it is advisable to compare the different airline companies and if you decide to travel often, to belong to a loyalty programme which accumulates all your air miles. This gives you numerous advantages.
The main objective to participate at a trade fair is to make new customers.
So now is the time to ask for lists of jewelers, jewellery factories and wholesalers via Consulates, Embassies or Chambers of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce of the country in which the fair takes place can also be very good at lending support. It is advisable to do a trip to a neighboring country close by in order to meet with The Chamber of Commerce if none exists in your home country. Another means, which is not to be sneezed at, is to become a member of the World Trade Centre (WTC). This is a global organization, which helps its members to make contacts in all countries. They can provide you with lists of importers and jewelers. In most WTCs you can even get a small office in which to receive your clients. WTCs are always centrally situated and are good meeting points, and are at your disposal to help with local administrative questions.
In Belgium for example, Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), can give you a hand with finding these lists. They also have local employees termed trade/commerce attaches on the spot, who can give you good advice and tips on the local market.
And don’t forget to file an application for subsidies with FIT. You can also make an application for intervention for your prospecting expenses, travel and hotel.
This is also the time to make a special edition of your website and to announce your presence at the trade fair. You can then send a mailing (via a specialized company) to all precious stones, wholesalers and jewellery factories. The size of your mailing depends on your investment, but it is certainly advisable to start a local mailing either electronically, by post or by fax; mentioning your presence, your goods on display and your booth number. You can also made a link with the fair web site. Give also a reason why the client must visit your both.
1 MONTH BEFORE FAIR
You can send out an invitation to your clients or to potential clients. A letter or a card with a free fair entry pass makes a great impression. You can also add an invitation for a drink at your stand. A publicity stunt such as a new cut or a gadget is an added bonus to entice customers. Personally I have given demonstrations of diamond cutting, sawing and polishing on account of the well-known slogan “Work fascinated me, I can sit and watch it for hours”. Another classic phenomenon is that people standing outside your stand will always attract other visitors to you too. You can also opt for a video screen with a promotional film about your company. This must be ordered at least 3 months before the show date.
It is now time that you finish packing your boxes of necessary materials including lamps, scales, calculators, loops, sorting tweezers (do not take these with you in your bag as these are confiscated by airport security), pencils, paper, eraser, shuffles, stapler, punch, adhesive tape and a small bag containing smaller equipment (tweezers, screwdriver, scissors). The transporter needs the keys of the box for the customs inspection. Do not forget to have a double of the keys made for you to keep and to bring with you. You must also make good appointments with your transporter, including the time of departure, time of arrival in the country and delivery at the fair. Coordination with their local agent (name, phone no and fax) is very important.
How are you going to organize your displays? You can do an ordinary lay¬out and display your stones in black boxes with indications of the colour, clarity and type of certificate. You could also do something original, attractive and spectacular. I have used technical drawings of diamonds, old diamond tools and antique microscopes - just try to be inspired.
It is now high time to check whether your passport is valid and whether you need a visa.
2 WEEKS BEFORE FAIR
The pressure is increasing, so it is back to your checklist and to inspecting your dossier. Check whether you have received confirmation of all your orders. Send a reminder to your customers by mail stating the hope that they received your invitation and repeating that you hope to welcome them at your booth. That they can ask to see some goods with any obligation.
1 WEEK BEFORE FAIR
You can now inform the insurance company on the value of the goods that you are taking with you. You have two possible ways of doing this. You can let your insurer insure everything, transport and stay on the fair. Or you can insure your stay only while the courier service will take responsibility for the insurance of the transport.
You can also do your own personal transport but the premium can be more expensive than with the transporter as it is such an additional risk. Many exhibitors have had the disastrous experience of being robbed in the plane, airport, hotel or parking of the trade fair (while loading or unloading). Brutal hold ups have occurred in the vicinity of trade fairs where the victims were roughly treated or even murdered (Basel).
Do not forget that an accident, even without violence, means being terribly inconvenienced and having to inform the police, being without goods at the fair and the agony of having to go through getting your insurer to pay you back.
With personal transport you must also fill in all customs duty forms yourself and take them to Diamond Office (for Belgium). Once you have been through this painful procedure you won’t be troubled anymore by the foreign customs. Showing the invoice, the goods (rarely, sometimes 1 or 2 lots) and transport documents is a fast administrative task, which will only take a few minutes more. By the way for the foreign customs, diamonds are just a product like any other. It can turn out quite differently if you leave a trade fair where you sold and must then submit your invoices and pay the possible taxes that your received from your customer. But here also if you are in a hurry you can leave an hour before everyone else to go to the customs. You can put your documents in order, which is again very simple from an administrative point of view (eg Bahrain and Basel). If you go to Hong Kong you have the least trouble. There you may enter and leave with your goods without any formalities. When you return (to Belgium) however you must go through the customs (Diamond Office) again, where you return to the long administrative agony of following the return imports.
If you are going to a trade fair you can also work with an ATA carnet. This is a document that is valid for one year allowing one to travel around freely with samples. In this way you can go over the borders day or night without any other documents or expenses. This document consists of different pages in different colours. Every time that you enter a country the customs tears off a piece of this paper and the other is stamped. They do this again when you leave the country. This is a very fast measure and very rarely do you have to wait at the borders. The carnet consists of many different entry and exit documents, which give you the possibility to visit different countries. Don’t forget to check whether you have enough papers to return. If you are missing one page the customs officials are unrelenting and your goods are stuck until you bring them a new document.
It is a very easy system to employ for prospecting outside Europe, but you cannot sell anything. The ATA carnet can be requested at the Chamber of Commerce. You will have to pay an amount in proportion to the value of the goods.
2 DAYS BEFORE FAIR
Goods must be ready with invoice, and a copy of the invoice faxed to the insurer (not personally delivered). You must have two copies of the fax and confirmation, one to stick in your file (in case you meet with an accident and you have to explain this to the local police and submit to questioning) and the other you can leave at your office.
The goods are picked up by the transporter. Airway bills must be kept in your file, and don’t forget to ask the forwarding agent for the name and the data of his correspondent at the fair. Your laptop contains your stocklist of goods that you have with you as well as the goods you have available but that you have you have not brought with you. You must have empty invoices with you, a notebook, empty parcel papers, commission letters. It is also advisable to have a small printer with you.
At this stage everything should be organized. Don’t forget your passport, air tickets and one or more credit cards and you are ready to depart with your laptop. Do not forget a bit of cash in local currency for a taxi, bus or drink. I always advise taking a survival kit with all necessities including medicine for headaches, throat pain, diarrhea etc. Do not forget that you are going to have to get by in a foreign country and there are often no pharmacies in the area.
Do not forget that airports are the chosen territory for thieves; watch your luggage at all times. One moment of inattention and your valuable laptop disappears into the crowd. Watch out for people with whom you speak or who give you a push “by accident”. There are thieves that have bottomless suitcases that they can slide over your suitcase and by doing so can get away with your case.
If you are traveling to another time zone and you arrive in the morning make sure that you do not go to sleep! You must try and carry on until at least 11pm in the evening so that the time difference can be bridged and the next day will be less trouble. Using this method I have had never problems with jetlag.
After you have laid down your luggage and refreshed yourself at your hotel, you must go the trade fair as quickly as possible to see whether everything is going according to plan. You must firstly report to the exhibitor’s desk where you receive your badges, notices, invitations from other companies etc. And particularly important is the catalogue you receive in which you can later find potential clients. You must also ensure that your firm is mentioned there.
Usually something goes wrong: the stand is not complete, your safe is not yet there, your telephone line doesn’t work, the lighting isn’t connected, your material or your goods have not arrived etc. Make contact with your local forwarding company for an appointment. The big companies (Brinks or Ferrari) have their representative there and a desk on all fairs. If you need to call your office, remember that there may be a time difference!
Do not panic on any account; usually everything works out after numerous telephone calls, faxes and running to and fro. You can now store your material and finish doing your showcases, is everything finished for the show? Lock your goods up well, have a good meal and go to sleep around 11pm.
Most fairs start at 9am and end at 6pm. The exhibitors may arrive an hour earlier to prepare their stands and may leave an hour after closing time so that they can lock everything up and clear things away. But there are also fairs, especially in the Middle Fast, which start at 4pm and end at 10pm. This gives you the opportunity to visit clients in the morning. The first day begins with the displaying of your goods, you must do this before the opening of the fair. The customers may come in when everything is prepared: the display is closed, goods safely behind you and everyone in their position.
You must ask absolutely all visitors for their visitor’s card. You can write on the back of the card what the customer wanted or you can type the necessary details in a filemaker format.
Like I said previously: be cautious with a new customer, never put two or more parcels on the table at once. I advise you to weigh it in front of the customer before and after giving the parcel to him or her and before putting it back in your inventory. If the customer wants to seal it, you have to close it and you have to check whether the goods are in the parcel and weigh it again. It won’t be the first time that the customer will not come hack after sealing the parcel. Changing stones happens faster on a trade fair with all the additional pressure on you than in the office. Another dangerous moment is when the customer asks for a stone from the display cases. Be cautious. Do not leave any goods on your desk and close the display cases immediately after taking the goods out. I don’t wish to scare any participant but I urge that it’s better to be extremely cautious.
After closing time
If you have a bigger budget you can offer a reception immediately after the closing of the trade fair to which you invite the press and your customers. It makes a good impression if you give a small gift - a gadget or souvenir - for this purpose.
There are many possible items like a shuffle, a loop, deskpads or tweezers etc. Everything should be discreetly printed with the name of your firm. I advise against putting your name in big letters or in flashy colours. These disappear into the first dustbin. There are many companies who have specialized in promotional gifts. In Hong Kong you can get all diamond necessities with your name printed on them. You can also give out a CD with a presentation where you put a small movie about your office and factory or views of the diamond area. A didactic movie about diamonds is always gratefully received as the jewelers can show this to their customers. A typical appreciated gift for an Antwerp company is a box of Belgium chocolate.
It is advisable to take stock and to prepare the sold goods to be sent, to put this on record on your computer as well as adding up deposits or payments received - in other words to do your book keeping every evening after closing time.
You also have the option of inviting customers out to a restaurant in the evening or customers might invite you out. One golden rule is to never take goods with you to show potential customers - not even for the Sheik of 1001 nights nor for the Emperor of China! Dozens of “accidents” happen in this manner. The client must come to the fair or you can visit him later at his office or his shop.
LAST FAIR DAY
Usually the trade fairs close their doors earlier on the last day. Usually it is already less busy around midday so you’ll get the chance to visit other exhibitors. You received the catalogue of exhibitors on the first fair day, and therefore had a few days to go through it and to pick out potential customers. This is also the time to calmly prepare everything to be sent back. You must call up the representative of your shipping company and arrange for everything to be picked up. You must fill in the shipment documents and hand over the sales invoices (double for you to keep), your stock must be in prefect order or you can encounter problems with return imports. One small error can mean a heap of misery at customs of D.O.
If unknown customers come in at the last moment while you are packing up, be very careful. They may have bad intentions and can take advantage of the distraction in order to steal something. When everything is put away you and your employees must do the rounds inside and outside the stand once more, it is not impossible that you left something in the display case, in the drawers of the office or in the safe.
You can return home the same evening or the following morning but there is also the option to stay a few days more to visit your newly acquired customers. This has many advantages.
You can see where they have their offices and whether it is a true and important business.
The client will appreciate your visit.
You will have the time to speak about a few subjects that you didn’t have time for or in mind during the fair.
BACK AT YOUR OFFICE
The first 2 or 3 days after you return you will have to dedicate to classifying files, making up the balance and preparing and shipping the orders. If there are new European customers then you must make invoices without VAT but with the correct number on the invoice. If the number is wrong, you will have to pay VAT after all. Give a call to the VAT authorities n° 03 203 34 45 for Belgium and 02 552 58 91 for the EC.
There are companies who are specialized in recouping the VAT that you have paid on your invoice (for which they take 25% commission) such as Ernst & Yong. You have to see whether this pays for you to do this.
The file for Flanders Investment & Trade must also be completed according to the guidelines (for Belgian participants).
It is also time to make a calculation of your expenses and of all incoming invoices during the fair so that you have a realistic view of your costs. You have to put your sales (if there were any) in the positive balance. But if you have a negative balance it doesn’t mean that you had a bad trade fair considering that you have to put all new customers in the positive balance. A definitive balance can only be made in between 3 and 5 year’s time anyway.
ONE WEEK LATER
It is now time to make contact again with the customers. First a letter by mail or fax thanking them for their visit to your company. Thanks to the file in your computer, you know all the details e.g. which goods he demanded, his turnover etc. Then you can invite then to come to Antwerp (at your cost or not); or you can plan to pay them a visit. Telephonic contact after two weeks is advised.
Do not lose courage, do not forget that you had many colleagues on the fair hunting for clients. Take every opportunity to make contact with potential customers. Try to offer them something that your colleagues cannot offer or don’t want to. After-sale service is very important.
In the beginning the new customer will place orders that he cannot find easily with his current suppliers. You have to ask yourself the question: “Why did he come to me”? Is he looking for a new type of goods, or is he looking for a better price, faster service, a new cut, or higher quality? Credit could also be the reason. In this case, you will have to judge the risk.
The point is that by attending a trade fair you enlarge your customer base like you could never manage to do if you stayed in your home town. If you go as a visitor, you can only visit the exhibitors but as an exhibitor you attract not only visitors but you can also get in touch with other exhibitors. As a booth holder, you make a stronger impression on the customer who comes to visit your booth than if you were to walk around with your attaché-case. Moreover, as a visitor you are often intruding (amongst many others) on manufacturers’ booths. As an exhibitor, however, you are on equal footing and you can invite others to your booth to see some goods and to get to know your company better.
You have also the possibility to offer your folder to all other booth with your number.
If you receive a client talk shortly about your company and the opportunities to work with your company. Listen to him, his needs, his problems. Offer him a collaboration, the relationship on long term, your support to increase his clientele.
There is also a big different in mentality, a Japanese will never say “NO” a Korean will always be to early on the appointment, a Middle East client will be never on time.
Be very polite sometime you can hurt some people without knowing. Have always business carts with you, if you receive a cart put it on the desk with respect certainly with clients of the Far East.
With the current evolution of globalization there are more sales opportunities but competition has equally become more fierce. The participation on a fiair is 6 time more efficient that all other promotion systems. The diamond people have to evolve and expand their customer base to survive. One of the possibilities is precisely by participating in trade fairs. This however represents a large investment and you can only find out whether it was worthwhile after a few years.
I hereby have given you a few good tips from my experience which will ensure that your participation will be almost trouble-free. I wish the new generation of ‘travelling diamantaires” a lot of success and perserverance. Their investment will pay off sooner or later.
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