International clothing chain H&M is opening three stores in the Washington region, adding to its existing lineup of more than a dozen area locations.

The first of the new stores, an 18,000-square-foot outpost in downtown Silver Spring, opened on Thursday. It replaces a Borders bookstore that closed last year.

The other two, which are to open by early 2013, will be located in Friendship Heights and Alexandria.

“We take our time to find the best locations — that’s the biggest priority for us,” said Nicole Christie, a spokeswoman for the company. “The outdoor shopping center in Silver Spring is a great fit — it gets a lot of strong traffic and is in a thriving city.”

In recent years, the retailer — which specializes in trendy, inexpensive clothing — has centered its expansion around new American markets, primarily in the South and West. But now Christie says the focus is gradually shifting to ramping up the company’s presence in areas that already have H&M stores.

“The trick now is to find great spaces in locations where we already have stores,” she said. “We want the local customer to call the new H&M their local store instead of having to go a little further.”

During fiscal year 2011, which ended in November, the global company opened 26 stores in the United States alone. This year, it is on track to open about 30 more.

“We’re finding that the stores are doing really well in close proximity to each other,” Christie said.

Since its founding in Sweden in 1947, the company has expanded to include about 2,700 stores in 48 countries.

“We have 10 stores in Manhattan alone,” she said, adding there are three more stores planned for the New York City borough.