Gift cards/vouchers have long been considered a go-to option for the unimaginative; including those aunts who don't know what to buy you once you've outgrown Pokemon. You may have felt a twinge of embarrassment yourself when buying a card from a supermarket or department store after remembering a friend's birthday at the last minute.

American-raised Connie Lee Fung-ping would like you to reconsider the humble gift card, though: "They are a win-win for both the buyer and the recipient.

"Two things I loved in the United States that were missing in Hong Kong were gift cards and a love for independent businesses," she says. As she explains, her newly launched online gift-card shop, Giftwell ( allows givers to seem more rather than less thoughtful, while supporting local businesses into the bargain.

Giftwell customers can choose cards ranging in value from HK$300 to HK$5,000, for a variety of local shops and restaurants. They can be ordered online and sent via e-mail. If that sounds a little impersonal, you may prefer, for a fee of HK$100, to have a cardboard presentation version sent to any address on Hong Kong Island. The cards are valid for two months from the delivery date - which is longer than the periods allowed for returns by most Hong Kong stores.

Lee says: "You can show someone that you remember that neighbourhood store she loves, the award-winning restaurant he talked about, that home store they wanted to check out.

"What you choose determines whether the money goes back into making where you live and work a better place."

Frustrated by the domination of homogenous chain stores, Lee says she was determined that Giftwell should support independent businesses, including many she patronised herself. The Press Room, for example, was "one of my favourite places for brunch and the only place I could find good bagels [in Hong Kong]".

Other partners include Flannel Flowers, Loveramics (ceramics), Kapok and Vein (fashion stores), and Manks (furniture and design).