Consumers and industrial clients alike use products designed to extend the life of their key assets. RPM International (NYSE:RPM) strives to tap into that market with its Rust-Oleum, DAP, and other coatings, sealants, and products covering a wide variety of applications. Over time, the company has done a good job of serving its niche well and producing solid growth.

Coming into Monday's fiscal fourth-quarter financial report, RPM shareholders were looking to see continued modest gains in revenue and net income. A tough spring season hurt RPM's results, leaving it with weaker sales growth and falling earnings. Let's take a closer look at RPM International and what its latest results mean for its prospects going forward.

List of RPM products.

Image source: RPM International.

RPM International has its parade rained on

RPM International's fiscal fourth-quarter results pointed to tough times for the company. Sales were up nearly 5% to $1.49 billion, which was only marginally weaker than most of those following the stock had expected to see. However, net income was down by almost a sixth to $128.1 million. Even after making allowances for one-time items, adjusted earnings of $1.02 per share were far below the consensus forecast among investors for $1.18 per share.

Taking a closer look at RPM's results, there were two primary reasons given for the shortfall. First, a very rainy beginning for the quarter hurt home improvement sales, on which RPM relies heavily during this time of year. Higher raw material costs also hurt RPM's bottom-line performance, and the company said it even faced shortages and other availability problems with some of its more important products.

Segment results for RPM were fairly consistent across the board. The industrial segment saw a 5% overall revenue increase on 2.2% growth in organic sales, with acquisitions accounting for nearly twice that growth despite negative impacts from foreign currency fluctuations. The news was encouraging given the relative weakness of the energy industry, but RPM said that flooring and roofing picked up the slack for the company. Segment profits were weak, falling 15% due largely to a one-time charge during the period and a one-time gain during last year's fiscal fourth quarter.

The specialty segment posted revenue gains of 5.4%, and only a severance charge prevented the business from posting double-digit percentage gains in segment profitability. The consumer segment fared the worst, with organic sales declines of 1% holding the unit's overall top-line growth to less than 4%. Pre-tax profit for the segment was up less than 2%.

CEO Frank Sullivan is still pleased with what RPM has done to foster growth. "During fiscal 2017, we completed nine acquisitions," Sullivan said, and "we took steps to reduce overall operating expenses." Despite the difficulties with the weather, the CEO was pleased with organic sales gains in two of RPM's three key businesses, and he expects its efforts to pay off even more in the future.

What's next for RPM?

RPM also has strong beliefs about strength continuing into the future. Sullivan said that better conditions in the North American commercial construction industry should help the industrial segment, while acquisitions, product introductions, and favorable market conditions help the consumer segment recover more strongly. The specialty segment will lose patent protection on an edible coatings product, but cost savings across the business should also contribute to better profitability.

RPM's fiscal 2018 guidance wasn't quite as good as investors had wanted to see. The company believes it will earn $2.85 to $2.95 per share, which is less than the consensus forecast for $3 per share. RPM's fiscal first-quarter guidance was also weak, but the company thinks that raw material availability will improve and that pricing increases will have a positive impact. If those efforts pan out, RPM is hoping to see earnings grow 12% to 15%,and for organic sales growth to continue. Yet the guidance that the company offered equates to somewhat higher growth rates than that, opening the door to a potential disconnect down the road.

RPM shareholders weren't happy with the report, and the stock fell more than 5% once the regular trading session began Monday morning, following the announcement. Until the company overcomes seasonal issues and starts to move forward more aggressively, investors in RPM won't be entirely confident that the company is doing everything it can to maximize its performance.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.