Indeed, just 20 percent of the country's best malls generate nearly three-fourths of mall revenues, according to Fung's report. That makes it possible for their owners to funnel more money into upgrades. Financing for "A" malls also remains available and at attractive pricing, according to Green Street's 2017 Mall Outlook.
It's harder for struggling malls to turn themselves around, as their declining economics make it difficult to find cash for investments. In its same outlook report, Green Street noted that lending standards have tightened further outside of the "A"-mall space, as lender criteria have become more and more stringent.
Malls with less than $400 per square foot in sales "must check other boxes," like being the best retail option in a small market, Green Street said in its report. Otherwise, these properties are being shut out of the commercial mortgage-backed securities market and forced to seek financing through banks, smaller insurers or debt funds.
Since 2010, 74 commercial mortgage-backed securities loans backed by regional malls have liquidated, according to an October report by Morningstar.
According to Green Street's 2017 Mall Outlook, there are more 300 malls in the U.S. that are considered "C" quality. They are the most at risk of closing over the next several years, the report said.
Technology is also expected to play a greater role in the bifurcation of shopping centers, as it enables consumers to make convenience-oriented purchases on their phones or computers. They can therefore save their bigger trips for the better centers, even if they're farther away, Taubman said.
Where people live will also continue to have an impact, as Americans move closer to work. This flight to urban cities is putting more pressure on suburban centers, in particular.
"Those malls are clearly challenged at this point," MasterCard Advisors' Sarah Quinlan said at the Financo CEO Forum in New York City earlier this month.