The Dead Pixels Society podcast

Thriving in Independent Photo Printing: Secrets to Success with IPI's Brenda DiVincenzo

May 25, 2023 Brenda DiVincenzo Season 4 Episode 116
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
Thriving in Independent Photo Printing: Secrets to Success with IPI's Brenda DiVincenzo
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Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talked with Brenda DiVincenzo, vice president of member success, at the IPI Member Network.  Listen in as we discuss the importance of IPI's networking, education, and marketing programs, and how their forum has supported business owners by providing invaluable tips and ideas. Plus, get a sneak peek into the upcoming IPI event, July 9-13, in Fort Worth, Texas, where members will have the opportunity to network, attend educational sessions, and learn about new market trends and opportunities.

Not only will we explore the exciting change of venue for the IPI event, but we'll also delve into unique cultural experiences such as a networking dinner at the popular Mexican restaurant Joe T. Garcia's, and a private event at Billy Bob's Texas - the largest honky-tonk in the United States. We discuss embracing the culture and charm of Fort Worth and how these memorable experiences will contribute to the growth and learning of attendees. 

Finally, we take a deep dive into the Print Refinery licensing model developed by IPI for its members. We will discuss the advantages of co-branding and the personalized assistance provided by IPI's team. Plus, learn how IPI has helped members transition their businesses into a saleable model and how their marketing solutions program assists members in implementing the knowledge gained from the IPI forum and IPIC conference. 

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Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning

Erin Manning  0:02  
Welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau. The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Advertek Printing and IP Labs.

Gary Pageau  0:18  
Hello again and welcome to the dead pixel society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Brenda DiVencenzo, the Vice President of member success at IPI. Hi, Brenda, how are you today?

Brenda DiVincenzo  0:30  
Good, Gary, how are you?

Gary Pageau  0:33  
Good, well, you're a returning guest. So we don't need to go through the whole background of IPI. But I think it's important for our audience, just kind of get an update on IPI, what it is, who the members are, and then we'll get into some of the upcoming activities.

Brenda DiVincenzo  0:50  
Great, well, thank you for having me honored to be a repeat guest. And IPI is a great group of independent business owners in the photo printing realm. And we have members all over mostly us, but also Canada, Australia, New Zealand, we even have a member in Aruba. So we're kind of all over. And what we do is we started traditionally as a buying group, which is still a core of what we do, but really the networking education and marketing programs that we provide for our members is, is what's kept everyone going over all these years. So providing them the opportunity to chat on our forum. It's one of the most popular forums in the industry, I believe, and members stay in business because they're able to share tips on keeping machines going. Tech support help, just lots of great ideas being exchanged there. We even get together monthly on a video call. And through the most popular topics and people can ask questions. And then I think what we're going to talk about today is us coming together every year and all the things that we do there. So that's, that's who our members are. They're definitely people that like to print things on things, that a variety of things, of things.

Gary Pageau  2:09  
So, printing things on things. And it's come along from the traditional one hour lab, which was kind of the the original focus of the group. But the Pacific Minilab Association even goes back that far, almost, I think, almost 50 years, right? i Yes. And now it's you know, evolved into everything from, you know, UV printing, laser imaging, and even back to film processing, which isn't still profitable and popular today.

Brenda DiVincenzo  2:41  
It's amazing and fantastic. I think both film and any kind of archiving or scanning are still the number one growth areas for our members. With film, it's really cool to watch everybody now come together, it's become like, how can we keep all of our machines up and you know, keeping them going. They even last year, we had a couple of sessions where we had about 10 people leading a session on how to keep all of your equipment going because everybody has different equipment. So you need a variety of people. And out of that they were able to outsource little gadgets that they needed different tools, different parts, they even 3d printed things for people, I mean, really, the brainpower coming together to solve that. And then seeing we've had brand new members join IPI over the past couple years that their whole focus is used equipment, film, cameras, film, and film processing just that's their whole business model. And it's really interesting to see.

Gary Pageau  3:42  
Yeah, I think that's one of the things people don't realize, when you talk about film and film processing, right? There's, there's not as many film brands as there used to be. So I talked to many retailers who are trying to have trouble getting film. And then there's the challenge of you know, the chemistry and paper and all of that maybe not paper so much because a lot of the filmed images are scanned and uploaded. But still, you know, there's still some some concerns about sourcing film processing equipment, especially I think a lot of folks who who kind of maybe junk, their old film processing equipment years ago now regret that because it's still in demand.

Brenda DiVincenzo  4:21  
Yes. And it's great because people are able to share if somebody doesn't want to do that anymore, they're putting their machines up for sale on the forum and people are able to find equipment that way. So that's been really helpful too. If you know if somebody knows of somebody going out of business or a big box closing a store near them, everybody jumps on that equipment, right? So it's it's been nice to see everybody sharing over something that they probably thought they wouldn't be doing today has all come back and now has brought everybody I think a lot closer together.

Gary Pageau  4:54  
And I think what's interesting is the pricing. I know you guys really can't talk pricing, but just Looking at the marketplace, it's a very profitable service now, because of you know, the fact that it is a boutique service. Now, it is a clear literally specialty product and doesn't worn itself to the old 495 overnight pricing that people were doing. So it is just a fascinating market. And one of the things that is interesting, of course, is the interchange between the IPI members of the legendary forum. And what happens there. I was fortunate enough to go to the IPI conference last year, and just saw some of the interchange exactly about that. I think I did a video where some of your members about just the film processing aspect, but that it really doesn't have to be filmed. It's really just sharing industry information to make everyone succeed. So let's talk now about the upcoming event, which has a complete change in venue, which is again, the kind of the news of the event is it is no longer in Las Vegas, where is the event? And when is it?

Brenda DiVincenzo  6:02  
We're going to be in Fort Worth, Texas, we start on July 9, and we run through July 13. So most people will arrive that Sunday and depart on Thursday. We're very excited to have a different change of venue, we figure there's probably people that weren't able to make it to Las Vegas, which is where we've been for for many, many years, as long as I've been with with IPI. And so we're excited to have a change of scenery, a place that has a lot of character and charm to it. And also a place that has a location of the print refinery, which is our licensed business model. And so in deciding where to be that was a big factor of hey, where can we have something different, maybe something not so West Coast or east coast, but middle of a country, but also somewhere where we can take our members to tour one of our licensed locations,

Gary Pageau  6:55  
Traditionally, you know, Las Vegas is a very popular location for the photo for photo industry events. And you know, CES is still there and don't think WPPI still goes there and things like that. But you're right it is. I mean, people do it kind of worn out of going to the same place and want to see something new. And you're taking this opportunity with Fort Worth to kind of showcase a couple places in social events. Can you talk a little bit about some of the evening activities before we get into the educational program her

Brenda DiVincenzo  7:26  
We're definitely highlighting kind of the culture and flavor of the city. So we're going to be doing a networking evening dinner event at Joe T. Garcia's, which is a Mexican restaurant that started back in the 50s. A very, very popular location for Fort Worth. They have a fantastic business model. If you want to talk about independent businesses. It is a cash only business. They're raking it in. Everybody knows it's the best Margarita in Fort Worth. And it's it's the place to go get Mexican food. So you will see lots of interesting characters there and we've rented out the entire outside. It is literally like you walked into a tropical patio in Mexico. It's a beautiful venue. We're going to have some mariachi performers and some Ballet Folklorico dancers. So we're really going to kind of embrace that whole side of Fort Worth culture.

Gary Pageau  8:20  
What day is that event?

Brenda DiVincenzo  8:22  
Monday the 10th July 10. Then Tuesday, the 11th We're gonna go to Billy Bob's Texas, which anybody that knows Texas Music knows probably that that's a very huge music venue. They can fit 10,000 people in that place. I believe it's huge. We're gonna go there for a private event, we'll have the whole floor to ourselves. It is the largest Honky Tonk in the US provide some line dancing lessons for those that want to partake in the full experience. We'll also have lots of barbecue served, and all kinds of other fun Texas experiences. It's also in the Fort Worth stockyards, which is the historic district, which dates back to when people were traveling across the country and wagons. And so you can actually walk around that whole area, we'll be down there long enough for people to get that that full experience. So we're really, really excited about kind of embracing everything that makes Fort Worth Fort Worth. Our room block runs for over a week. So people that want to bring their families it's an extremely family friendly place. But there's plenty to do we have one of the top zoos in the country. We have three World Class art museums, where you're gonna see arts by all all the Masters so it's it's just a really cool kind of every culture you can think of is represented here and I think it's a cool place to go for summer vacation, including for your photo industry education.

Gary Pageau  9:54  
But let's talk about the education you've got will send a different format this year where you've got dedicated edge vacation days and then a dedicated trade show day, where in the past that trade shows split over, you know, two afternoons or two days. So can you talk a little bit about the education program? What can people expect to learn? I mean, from past experience, the IPI event has always been very interactive, a lot of members showcase, the members are really put to the forefront in terms of showing their experiences, what are some of the highlights of this year's program.

Brenda DiVincenzo  10:27  
So we'll have two separate general sessions. And that's usually for things that are very relevant to all of our members, what's going on in marketing that you need to embrace no matter what your business model is, what type of hot new trends are there in the market, and which vendors you need to be talking to about those things are members while the tie that binds them together is photo printing or printing in general, because a lot of them print graphics and such too. But they also are very diverse. We have members that are specialty retailers, we have members that sell cameras, also, we have members that are school and sports photographers, I mean, everybody kind of is is all over the board with that. So we have some general sessions on very general information that everyone needs to know. And then we break that down into breakout sessions. So we're actually offering six time slots of breakout sessions this year to one Monday, four on Tuesday. And that's where you go and you get, you might do the marketing track, if you're sending your marketing person, they might spend their whole time learning about marketing, you might do tracks on operations, focusing on maybe archiving and different things, you know, film processing, all the things we were just talking about that are hot, we have to really kind of cooled tracks this year, or not so much even tracks, but kind of topic areas, were doing profitable hack sessions. So this could be anywhere from technology to you know, like software pieces that help you in your business day to day, it could be operations, things where you can make yourself more profitable by by changing these couple little things, how to charge for your time, just anything that's kind of quick tips on being more profitable. Um, it could be shipping a lot of our members or shipping out a lot of things. Or it could be on processes they're doing all the time. Sublimation is extremely popular, but there's all kinds of tips and tricks people have for different different products. So all of that is member sourced meaning members have requested it, but also members are teaching it. So you're learning from people that are having success in those areas. The other thing that we're doing this really exciting as far as a track is something we're calling new markets, Hot Trends and growth opportunities. So that's where you're gonna get education on. Either you're new to or you want to get into laser engraving. How do you go about doing that? What What equipment do you need? What supplies what should you be doing other other things in that those areas, a lot of people are doing a lot more fine art reproduction in house on metal and acrylic with different techniques, a lot center their apparel, a lot of our members are starting to get into the apparel world. So how can you do that there's three different ways to do that three different processes. So you know, just those kinds of things where we're talking about what's new and hot out there that you can get into and kind of diversify your offerings with your customers or get into to new markets. And again, all member LED will have vendors to support whatever new things you want to get into. We also have lots of vendors that provide outsourcing for these things. So if a member wants to test their market, let's say laser engraving, they're not ready to buy a laser yet, but they want to start selling those products. We have vendors that can also provide outsourcing options for that. And then they can ease their way into that and see and wait for it to be profitable for them to buy that equipment.

Gary Pageau  13:58  
The things I think, you know, the general public could use more awareness of is just, you know, that you can print your photos or your images or your artwork on almost anything now. And really, the challenge for a lot of retailers isn't do I need to offer but what can I offer? What can I offer in house and what can I What should I outsource? Because really the selection of possible products is I wouldn't say near infinite but it's it's great. It's impressive the number of products that are offered. Now, you mentioned vendors talk a little bit about your tradeshow, which is, you know, what is interesting to me about the IPI event unlike some other events that I attend, is the vendors are really partners with the members in the sense that there they go to all the sessions. There's a lot of interaction between them. So the show itself is almost like a picnic, if you will. I liked that. It said atmosphere. Can you talk a little bit about what kind of vendors are at the show?

Brenda DiVincenzo  15:05  
Sure. So we're really proud of the fact that we treat IPI like a family. And that's not just the members, but the vendors, too. I think that's really important for us. So all of our meals, you're gonna see everyone there, because we're one big industry and group all together. And we firmly believe that the best way to get to know someone and do business with them, is to sit and share a meal with them or have a conversation in a hallway. Yes, you want to go to someone's booth and get those, you know, product demonstrations, that's extremely important. But just, you know, you might not have even thought anything about a certain area before and you might skip over that. But if you sit down and you have a meal with someone, or you go to an education class, and you're sitting next to them, sharing ideas, that's much more effective for a sales process. Everyone like family, our vendors are not definitely all the printing things that we've just been talking about people that that serve all of those different printing areas and archiving areas. We also have vendors that provide software to do what you do in your business, or just to carry on business, right credit card processing, all the kind of business operations, things that you need. So you're gonna see really everyone we also have hard good vendors that sell frames, and, and other things that you might need to sell to your customers that are related to printing and things like that. So you're gonna see a really diverse group, we have new, you know, always bring on several new vendors a year. Like I said, lasering is becoming very popular. So you're gonna see a lot more in that category, a lot more and outsourcing options. And so really exciting things coming up. And, you know, a few of these jump in, in July. So those are always the most exciting one. So we'll see. We'll see how that goes.

Gary Pageau  16:57  
So you mentioned earlier, the Print Refinery, which is something that has been in the industry for quite a few years. But I think there's some people still don't understand what the objective of the print refinery is for the industry as a whole. Can you show that? 

Brenda DiVincenzo  17:14  
Yeah. So when when we started it, we were looking, you know, we at IPI, we've continued to do more and more marketing for members to the point where they really needed a full solution. And that's kind of where our brains went when we were starting to work on that. But it's a full licensed business model. So it's not a franchise, so there's no control of operations. And it's something that can work as an overall business or a plugin as a department of an another existing business. So we have 14 locations, all of them were existing IPI members that chose to adopt the print refinery, a handful of them are solely the print refinery, where they're, they're dealing with just printing. But some of them have other things like custom framing, or camera stores, we have probably five or so members that are that are camera stores as well.

Gary Pageau  18:11  
They can be various camera and the print reference or something like that. 

Brenda DiVincenzo  18:15  
So it's a fully co-branded license, we actually like people to have that established brand incorporated into what they're doing, or their local area, whatever that is. And so we have for camera stores, for example. It's a way for them to promote that they do printing behind a brand. They're used to selling camera brands, now they're selling printing as a brand. And then we have a lot of people that do other things. Again, some of them are, you know, also doing image capture. So we have kind of a wide variety of print refineries. I think over the years, what it's become for people is you can go to the IPI forum, you can go to IPIC, you can do our Marketing Solutions program, you can have all of those services, you can learn all the amazing things that members are sharing with you at the conference. But then getting home and implementing all of that and getting it into a plan and a checklist is so challenging. So for some people, it's literally I need someone to help me manage my checklist and someone to help me get all of this stuff done in a way that makes sense for my business. How do I sort through all of this? And so we we really make it easy to get your store design under control? How are you going to make this look great within your store or your whole store? Erin Vaughn holds on our team is amazing at coming up with how to take what we know is something you should be advertising within your space and putting that in your space. And she's great with working with the co-branding. So if you have a logo that's red, we'll make it work within the refinery brands. So it's very, very customized like that, but also how to do your marketing how to target towards your goals and I think As it's evolved over the years, people have adopted it so that they can get that personal one on one coaching because we work with every single licensee one on one, right? So they're able to hit my goal is I want to double my archiving sales this year. Perfect. Let's, let's work on that. And it's been great to see the growth, I think every single location grew 15 to 35%. Last year, their profitability numbers are up because they're able to do this by taking a step back and looking at operations. And really, you know, with all the consulting that we provide, a lot of them are doing Etsy stores. So we do custom Etsy assistance for very specialized products, and they're seeing great success there, it's become a really cool thing to be able to work with everybody one on one like that. And then last year, kind of where we were going in the first place finally came to fruition where we had a member, he signed on, it was kind of his retirement plan. He knew he wanted to sell his business within, you know, X amount of years. But he felt like he had kind of a disjointed business model that he didn't know how to sell. He didn't know how someone could get behind what he did, right? 

Gary Pageau  21:15  
Because I mean, if you've got had a long-standing photo business, it's not like, it's not like running a hamburger shop. There. So there's a lot of customized things that happen behind the scenes, right?

Brenda DiVincenzo  21:28  
You every year, and I pick, you add a new thing on and then how does that become a full model. So what we were able to do with the prairie fighter is now you're selling a model with a brand with consultants behind it that are going to help you and support you. So even if you've never been in this industry before we can help so that he sold to somebody that was a sports photography person that was doing printing, but had never owned a retail store. And so we were able to, when he bought the business, teach him the retail side of the business, because that's especially where we shine anyways. And we're able to make it work. So I think it's become for a lot of people, Hey, maybe I should as I'm going, you know, starting to think about retirement, this is a good thing, transitioning my business, have it growing, be able to show people some great growth numbers and a system. So we're, we're excited, and we're excited to show one of our locations off when we're at our conference.

Gary Pageau  22:24  
You know, I think that is one of the things that especially a lot of independent small businesses don't think of is, you know, prepping the business for sale. I mean, sadly, I've known several folks in the photo business, especially in the camera side, who, you know, they want to sell the business sell their store, and it really was so much was locked in the owners head and couldn't be transferred easily to a new owner that they just ended up shutting the doors because which is a shame, because as we all know, you know, there's a lot of communities that could benefit from having a photo store there. But it's not something that, it's not like a restaurant or something where there's a lot of models you can see in a community where it's like, oh, you know, there's a burger shop, I want open and burger shop and kind of do what they're doing. It's it's very unique and special, which is why we love it. But don't get me exactly what is involved with the license model piece, because I think that's what people struggle with is, is it's not a franchise, so you're not getting a percent of sales or any of that stuff. But there are some fees involved. And there are some things you have to do. So can you kind of just cover top-line some of those things that make this worthwhile?

Brenda DiVincenzo  23:40  
Right, so you said the most important thing, there's no percentage of sales once you're you're going with it, it's yours, you are licensing the brand, the print refinery, and there are some stipulations of how you can use that brand. But we do co-brand it for you. So it might be that you're the Print Refinery, Vernon Hills, and your neighborhood or refinery, but you might be Fort Worth Camera and the refinery it might be you know, co-branded like that within. And so we work with you on that. And then we have stipulations for colors and fonts. And, you know, kind of the marketing side behind that. I mean, we help with a lot of the marketing. But really the, you know, there are core products that we'd like you to be able to carry, but it's really a custom solution at the end of the de website, you can take what you want and not use the other parts because our members are so diverse, we learned that we had to be extremely custom with each of those licenses. So as far as cost we there's an $8,500 setup fee. That includes your full store designs. So we you know, mock-up what everything's going to look like tell you exactly what you need to purchase and provide a lot of the things if you're printing wide format, you can print a lot of the display items. You're Self. So it's it's pretty, pretty easy. The furniture that we recommend is usually very, you know, cost-friendly. So everything's friendly within a budget. And a lot of people if you already have a store, it's just kind of an upgrade or a refresh to your store we're not, you know unless you're building out a clean slate, those are expenses that you're going to have anyways, we're not doing that, and then the monthly fee for the refinery $600 but that includes anything you're already paying IPI. So that includes your membership dues, your marketing solution program, all your custom marketing, so some members are already paying over $300 And then this is just 600 Total including that so it makes it really I think, when people are ready to start preparing that business for growth and then eventually retirement, I think it's okay, we're you know, we're already in for this much. Now we're gonna have a system perfect Brenda's gonna make us follow this list perfect.

Gary Pageau  26:01  
Erin say just check.

Brenda DiVincenzo  26:03  
Oh, we get to have Erin in our store designing this beautiful space, we get Ron's brain to help us know what to do with business. I mean, it's I think it's a pretty easy sell once you're kind of all into the IPI world.

Gary Pageau  26:18  
Now you mentioned marketing solutions, which is MSP, can you talk a little bit about that, because that's sort of been something you've had for quite some time. And it's really evolved into a, from a service, again, educate me on this, from where you just provided some, you know, basically clipart and graphics to a full-blown marketing service.

Brenda DiVincenzo  26:37  
Yes,  Erin Van Holdt and Natalie Gunn on our marketing team, they work on developing all kinds of beautiful marketing pieces. First and foremost, I think that's kind of the most important thing to say is it really markets, all the services our members are providing. So it's not just print related. There's a lot of archiving, film processing, video transfer, any of the services that you provide in your store, even though they're not print-based, are still included in this, you're gonna get store signage, emails, social media posts, and then we can even manage that stuff for you and send out social media, you can send out emails for you, I think one of the big selling points of it is what it traditionally was, is that we provide product templates, and refreshed holiday cards and things like that. So a lot of people that adopt online ordering software, like through photo finale, Dacus, picks his topics, any of these graphics, all these different solutions. If you want more content that's being refreshed on a regular basis with a professional design team, the MSP gets auto-uploaded to those systems, you always have fresh content for your customers to find. So I think that's been traditionally a great way of us attracting new members, I know that we get a lot of those online software providers referring members all the time that want new content on their systems,

Gary Pageau  28:05  
and that is a member benefit that you have to be a member. So even if you're a customer of those platforms, you don't get that unless you're an IPI member.

Brenda DiVincenzo  28:15  
Correct, you would join IPI. But then with that, you get free admission to our conference, you get access to our forum, you get all those other things as a member, which, if you're selling any of those products, we know that you should be an IPI member because you'll get all those added benefits of knowing what's going on in the industry, from your fellow members that are out there doing it.

Gary Pageau  28:37  
Now you also have at the annual conference, don't you have a meeting just for the Print Refinery folks is to get together and exchange. 

Brenda DiVincenzo  28:46  
We do so it's after the conference is over. We meet the next morning, and everybody's a little sleepy at first we got. We've had a lot of fun that week, we got to get everybody get them up and ready. We give them lots of food that usually helps coffee and food is usually a good help. But we get together with all the licensees so that they have dedicated time to network with each other after they've been able to go to Ipek. And kind of get all the education that they need. Get all the vendors that they need. And then they can kind of come together and talk with other licensees. What's great about that is we make it not so much presentational from our team but really name a success that you've had this year. So then everybody in the room knows who they can go to to ask about certain things that they want to do. And what are your challenges and we brainstorm how to help each other. So it really becomes a very serious smaller group networking session. We usually have anywhere from 20 to 30 people attend that meeting. So again, a great benefit for them.

Gary Pageau  29:48  
Now, what about prospective Print Refinery, are they do they go to that, or is there another meeting for them?

Brenda DiVincenzo  29:54  
Yeah, so usually we meet with them privately until they're ready to do that. We've had some people that are ready to go admit that for whatever reason, they might not quite be ready yet to take a business transition or something that's going on. And we've been able to invite them as a guest to kind of see what they'll be getting into once they're ready to move forward. But our whole team has time set aside during the trade show and other times that I pick to meet with prospective members. We also have our tour this year of the store, which will be a good opportunity for people to talk to our team talk to team members at the refinery. So not just the owner that you might normally see at Ipek, you'll actually get to talk to the people back in the production area that our day-to-day working as a Print Refinery team member and see what that experience is like. So I think this year, we're really excited to not just lean on us telling you about it, but us actually being able to show you the experience of the Print Refinery,

Gary Pageau  30:53  
but where can people go for more information about first IPI and then the conference and maybe the Print Refinery you get to plug all three.

Brenda DiVincenzo  31:04  
So the easiest thing to do is to go to IPI So IPI p h o t And from there, you can click on our top menu, you can go to our conference page, can go to the Print  Refinery page to learn more about you can see where locations are here, and you and all of our information is there. If you're interested in being a member, there are instructions there for that. But you can also email me at Brenda at IPI That's easy. We also have information about becoming vendors. So there's all kinds of information there but please feel free to reach out with any questions that you have.

Gary Pageau  31:40  
Well, Brenda, it's great to have you. I'm looking forward to seeing you in Fort Worth Joy ninth through the 13th at the Omni Fort Worth. It was great having you Thank you.

Brenda DiVincenzo  31:50  
Great. Well, thank you so much. I greatly appreciate the opportunity.

Erin Manning  31:55  
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