In my recent article about estimating market size, I mentioned that one tip is to determine if you really need to know an exact market size, or whether you just need to know if it is big enough.
This was exactly the situation when a member called asking about a particular equipment category. They were considering a new product effort, but needed to know whether the market was large enough. While he started out asking for exact numbers, once I provided some useful export data relative to the product cateogry he was able to make his decision quickly – the numbers were an order of magnitude above the minimums he needed, so it was a go.
You can get this data from the government for free at some level, but if you want to go to specific harmonized system codes you will probably need to pay. If you belong to a trade association, they may be able to provide it for you as AEM does for its members.
The data may or may not be very specific. Some harmonized codes, the system of codes for identifying different items, are quite specific, and some are quite broad. Usually there will be total dollar value, and then a supplemental unit. This is often weight, but for equipment it is often units. This is usually the more useful number.
However, if only dollars or weight is available, and average price or weight can be used to get an estimated number of items. You don’t need to be terribly accurate to get within an order of magnitude, and in this context that should be accurate enough.