Statewide: Triangle region, May 2015

 In 2015-05
Diamond in the rough

Gemstone maker Charles & Colvard is turning to a new leader as it tries to rebound after reporting net losses of $14.4 million over the last two years. Marvin Beasley, 71, a former CEO at Kansas City, Mo.-based Helzberg Diamonds, took over in March for Randy McCullough, who retired after five years leading the Morrisville-based company. Beasley comes with strong credentials — Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Helzberg in 1995, and the chain now has more than 230 stores. In trying to reverse a sharp slide in the company’s share price over the last two years, Beasley must convince traditional retailers to offer its engineered moissanite gems. It’s a tough sell, because most jewelers understandably prefer selling a $5,000 diamond versus a $500 moissanite product that looks similar. Beasley, who has served on Charles & Colvard’s board since 2009 and worked in retail for 44 years, is confident. “I am a merchant. I’ve been buying and selling things my whole life,” he says. “I think the product is so outstanding. It’s absolutely beautiful.” Charles & Colvard began as a partnership with Durham-based semiconductor-maker Cree, which had expertise in silicon carbide — the main ingredient in moissanite. The company, which incorporated in 1995 and had average annual sales of $25 million over the last three years, is required to buy $30 million of silicon carbide from Cree through 2018 under a contract signed in December. Beasley is focused on cutting the company’s $39 million inventory of gems. He points to direct-to-consumer sales as a bright spot, including its 3-year-old Lulu Avenue home-party line, modeled after Tupperware and others that sell through part-timers looking for a supplemental income. “It’s evolving into a more social-selling product.” Ultimately, a Charles & Colvard turnaround may rely on convincing more retailers to carry lower-priced moissanite. “I understand their angst. We just have to overcome this,” Beasley says.

 


Briefs

RALEIGHSalix Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired April 1 by Laval, Quebec-based Valeant Pharmaceuticals for about $11.1 billion, will lay off 258 workers by Oct. 30. The drugmaker will provide a minimum of one year’s severance for affected workers, including some in management and administrative roles.

ABERDEEN — Reliance Packaging, a division of Lyndhurst, N.J.-based Sigma Plastics Group, will add 48 jobs to its 12 over the next three years in a plant expansion. The company, which makes plastic bags for the lawn-and-garden industry, will invest $3.5 million and will receive up to $52,000 in state grants if it meets job-creation targets. The new jobs will pay an average annual wage of $31,250, lower than Moore County’s $37,585.

CARYThe Pantry has begun laying off 250 people at offices here and in Sanford as a result of its sale to Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard. The layoffs will occur over 18 months. The Pantry, which operates more than 1,500 convenience stores in 13 states primarily as Kangaroo Express, employed about 3,600 in North Carolina prior to the layoffs.

DURHAMGlaxoSmithKline will eliminate 180 jobs during the first half of the year. Most of the affected jobs are in sales, marketing, management and operations. The London-based drugmaker announced in December it would lay off 900 people in its research and development unit by the end of 2015, though roughly half of those employees would be offered jobs at a new business unit. GSK employed about 5,350 in the state in December 2014.

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