Sears (NYSE:S) shares were a bit bipolar Thursday. Investors seesawed the stock, which had been hovering near its 52-week high to end down 5%. The company said its third-quarter earnings fell due to a restructuring charge. While that may sound depressing, there's a lot to be optimistic about.

Same-store sales improved, with apparel doing its part. This implies that management's efforts to woo shoppers back from such discount retailers as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and other key competitors may just be working.

Sears' systematic refocus on retail is well documented. Right here, we've talked about its online apparel initiative, acquisition of Structure, and its holiday toy store lure. In August, Matt Richey ran down the possibilities as Sears began its return to its retail roots.

The $89 million after-tax charge related to Sears' Great Indoors chain. After the charge, Sears reported earnings of $147 million, or $0.52 per share, compared with last year's $189 million, or $0.59 per share. Otherwise, earnings would have come in at $0.84 per share.

Meanwhile, Sears received approval to sell its credit card accounts to Citigroup (NYSE:C). That the credit card unit, once an albatross, delivered a great deal to profits this quarter might give investors pause; however, Sears plans to throw the proceeds towards reducing debt and returning cash to shareholders.

And that's hardly a bad plan. In fact, while lower third-quarter earnings might sound like a setback, this appears a mere pothole in Sears' single-minded journey back to retail success and continued sales growth.

Alyce Lomax welcomes your feedback at alomax@fool.com.