Elaine Watson The Co-operative Group has boosted its estate in the north with the acquisition of West Yorkshire based GT Smith, its second major deal in the region in five weeks. With annual sales topping £37m, GT is a major player in West Yorkshire and was ranked 23 in The Grocer Top 50 of independently owned retailers. It comprises 13 stores ranging from 1,500 sq ft to 35,000 sq ft and totalling 130,000 sq ft in areas such as Ackworth, Airedale, Castleford, Knottingley, Moorthorpe and Normanton. Retail controller Malcolm Hepworth said the society planned to pump £4.2m into the new stores as part of a major refurbishment programme starting next month to convert the entire estate into its Market Town and Welcome formats. Hepworth said: "We are delighted to bring a co-operative presence to many of these towns and anticipate growth in sales from the added benefits we can bring such as dividend, improved range and enhanced shopping environments." Last month Co-operative Group bought the Williams Family Foodstores chain of seven stores across East Yorkshire. It said they would be converted to the Welcome and Market Town formats by mid July at a cost of £1m. The society also acquired a Costcutter store in Bushmills, Northern Ireland, to be converted to the Market Town format, taking its estate in Northern Ireland to 33 stores. Separately, there are plans to open new-build stores this year in Bedwas, Catford, Lennoxtown, Ashford, Hertford, Hanhan, Lostwithal and Portree. l Dividend cardholders have received almost £11m in cash this week in the first of two payouts this year. Cardholders earn 3p for every pound spent on Co-op own brand and 1p for branded products. {{NEWS }}