Kimco CEO Conor Flynn is another leading voice of the retail REIT space, and he firmly believes talk of the "retail apocalypse" is exaggerated.
"I think it is fair to say that the debate surrounding the death of physical retail is over," Flynn said in a call with analysts and investors. "The Amazon-Whole Foods transaction, Alibaba's growing grocery concept in China, Wal-Mart's click-and-collect ... program integrated with Jet.com, and Target's flex format Express, all point to a vibrant, albeit different-looking retail real estate world."
Kimco's portfolio today consists of a diverse mix of tenants, such as TJ Maxx, Home Depot, Kohl's Whole Foods and Best Buy.
"Physical retail has a large role to play in this effort to bring the best shopping experience for the customer, especially as retailers continue to explore different ways to overcome the last-mile challenge," Flynn said on the company's earnings call. In fulfilling online orders, the biggest challenge for retailers is often that "last mile," or the distance from a main distribution hub to a customer's home.
"Let's not forget that notwithstanding the changes and challenges that confront retail, off-price, grocery, home improvement, fitness, beauty and other service retailers continue to thrive in this environment," he said.
Kimco's stock has fallen about 35 percent over the past 12 months, including down 20 percent this year. The company is still trying to convince Wall Street that it has the story wrong.
Mall owner Macerich's CEO, Arthur Coppola, echoed similar points on his latest earnings conference call, describing the threats he hears that the "mall is dead" as "very painful."
"There's been a daily, if not sometimes hourly, barrage of headlines predicting the death of great retail locations," Coppola said.
"I share the pain with many of you when you look at those headlines, especially when you have conviction that they are not accurate. ... I have absolutely no empathy for the shorts ... that are motivated, for their own reasons, to help create this fake news."
Macerich affirmed during its latest quarter that it's keeping properties leased and is allocating more square footage to retailers that aren't "boring."
Macerich said it has already added multiplex theaters, for example, to a number of its proprieties as anchors and is looking to do more business with Life Time Fitness chain. The company has even held discussions recently with virtual reality and augmented reality retailers to come into malls.
Making an analogy to baseball, Coppola said as far as digital brands going physical goes, "it is [only] the top of the first inning." He's excited about e-commerce creating a "breeding ground for brands" and bringing in "the next generation of great retailers."
Trading on track with its peers, though, Macerich's stock has fallen 31 percent over the past 12 months, and shares are down 16 percent in 2017.
As REIT analyst Dijkum emphasized to CNBC, it will take time and continued performance by retail real estate investment trusts in order for them to separate themselves from the negative narrative plaguing the industry.
Just last week, mall owner GGP announced it wasn't going to pursue a strategic alternative, like selling itself, and instead will "lease, lease, lease" and "stay the course" in retail. Though this news upset the hedge funds that were hoping the REIT would consider going private, GGP's assets still hold value, Dijkum said. "They're doing all the right things."
If retail was really coming to an end, as some have predicted, GGP likely would be throwing in the towel. Instead, REITs are speaking up and forging ahead.