The Royal Mail estimates that it will deliver 2 billion parcels and letters a day during the Christmas season, and to cope with the extra load it has taken on 15,000 temporary employees. After all, with the post in such a state, how much worse can a few hungover students make it? If accurate, this would be a welcome boost at the close of a nightmare year for the postal service. First-half profits plummeted by more than two-thirds after competition from electronic media contributed to a sharp fall in the number of people posting letters. In 2009, it delivered an average of 71 million items a day; this year, the number fell to 68 million - and it could drop further if industrial relations don't improve. The heavy losses could affect the Royal Mail's trading position as it prepares for the privatisation of parts of its operation - so the Christmas boost to trade might come just in time to put a stamp of approval on the company before the red-letter day arrives.