LOS ANGELES — Joining a group of department stores sniffing out niche markets, Mervyn’s is pouncing on petites.

The Hayward, Calif.-based chain announced it will launch Petite Style, a new in-store shop bound for all 264 stores, next Sunday.

A spokeswoman said the company’s aim is to grab a share of the estimated 45 million petite women — that’s 43 percent of all women in the U.S. — who are 5’4″ or under, who have roughly $8 billion in spending power, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study and research from The NPD Group.

“Our guests had been asking for petite sizes,” she said, noting Mervyn’s has only carried small amounts of the petite sizes throughout the company’s 50-year history. “Forty-five million women represent a great business opportunity for us,” she added.

The department will carry petite career and casual collections from such brands as Gloria Vanderbilt, Villager Sport, Briggs, Prophecy by Sag Harbor. Cascade Blues, Lee, Erika & Co. and Studio JPR, as well as Mervyn’s private label Hillard & Hanson.

In general, petite sizes feature pants with smaller pocket openings, shorter rises and lengths and shortened zippers. Jackets and shirts feature higher armholes and shorter sleeves. Lapels, pockets and prints are also rescaled for smaller women.

In-store marketing and weekly print advertising will promote printed stretch capris, patterned tops, denim cargo shorts, carpenter shorts, painter styles and novelty tops in the new department. The shop will be located on women’s ready-to-wear floors throughout the chain but Furman said specific placement will vary from store to store.

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