MEXICO CITY — “We see room for 50 stores in Mexico,” said Miguel Flores, vice president and country manager at American Eagle Outfitters, which is about to open its 18th store in the country after arriving in early 2013.

While the bulk of the teen retailer’s presence is concentrated in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Querétaro and other large cities, the firm intends to grow in Mexico’s booming secondary cities in which a plethora of fledgling mall projects and refurbishments offer opportunities.

“Everyone knows Mexico City concentrates the highest percentage of population and GDP in Mexico, so we will continue to strategically grow there,” Flores said. “However, secondary cities are growing in many ways. New malls are being built in cities that didn’t have any before or upgraded in others, so there are a lot of opportunities coming from new commercial real estate.”

Currently, AEO operates 16 stores under the American Eagle banner and several others under a “side-by-side” format, featuring its lingerie banner Aerie.

The firm owns and runs all of its shops and will continue to grow under that strategy.

Mexico is the company’s largest Latin American market, but it also has expanded recently into Panama, Central America and Colombia through licensing partners.

Flores expects this year’s two other stores to roll out by Christmas, with one set to open in Mexico City’s new Toreo shopping center.

After installing nine stores annually since 2013, AEO could open a similar number each year until it meets its 50-store threshold. However, Flores said the firm is in no particular rush to reach that size and that future openings will hinge on landing the right locations.

Before arriving in Mexico, AEO was one of the country’s best-selling brands, distributed through department stores and boutiques but also omnipresent in large flea markets, or tianguis.

“The brand was very well known by Mexican consumers, so, when we came, we worked to make the offer available to a larger segment of the population,” Flores said, adding that sales are meeting or, in some cases, exceeding expectations.

AEO competes heavily with a slew of brands that are expanding in the Mexican market, including Inditex’s Zara and Pull & Bear as well as H&M.

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