Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. (WINN) reported a fiscal first-quarter net loss of $24.1 million ($0.43 per share) on Monday, improving on its first-quarter losses from a year ago by nearly one-third.

Net sales for the grocery store's first quarter were up 3.1 percent to $1.6 billion from the same period last year. Identical store sales increased 3.3 percent, driven by a 5.5 percent increase in basket size.

In Winn-Dixie's first quarter of its 2010 fiscal year, the company stared at a net loss of nearly $76.8 million.

Continued retail inflation and a positive reaction from consumers to a gas-rewards program and a computer-generated ordering initiative most contributed to the narrowing of the company's loss.

I am very pleased with our first-quarter financial performance, said Peter Lynch, the company's chairman, CEO and president. Through the first five weeks of the second quarter, we continue to experience identical store sales growth that has exceeded our first quarter performance, in line with our expectations.

Winn-Dixie's earnings report comes on the same day its chairman, CEO and president, Peter Lynch, said the company will open five new stores in the fiscal year 2013.

The grocer's revenues grew to $1.59 billion, also an increase from $1.54 billion in its last fiscal year.

Following the release of the earnings report, Winn-Dixie shares rose 8 percent (53 cents) to $6.87 during extended trading. The company had closed the regular trading session Monday down 3.6 percent (24 cents) at $6.34.