* Lego's consumer sales grew 4% in 2023 vs market decline of 7%

* Expects single digit sales growth for 2024

* Continues to invest in China despite declining sales

COPENHAGEN, March 12 (Reuters) - Lego increased sales of its colourful plastic bricks last year despite a decline in China and grabbed market share in what it called the most downbeat toy market in 15 years, the Danish toymaker said on Tuesday.

In a global toy market that declined 7%, Lego said its consumer sales grew 4% last year, driven by strong growth in the United States and Central and Eastern Europe.

CEO Niels Christiansen said he expects the family-owned company could continue to outpace the global market, adding it expected single-digit sales growth this year despite a continued muted industry forecast.

"Expectations are that the market is still not going to be easy," he told Reuters in an interview, adding that he expects the market to fall less in 2024 than last year.

Its main rivals Barbie maker Mattel Inc and Hasbro , the firm behind My Little Pony, have both been grappling with tepid sales on the back of persistent weak demand.

Lego said total revenue, which includes sales to retailers, grew 2% last year to 65.9 billion Danish crowns ($9.65 billion).

"I think the reason for our success is that our brand is extremely strong all over the world," said Christiansen.

However, consumers have been "holding back a little", buying fewer or cheaper Lego sets, he said.

"Part of our success is that we have been good at having the right things on the shelves, including at the right price points," he said.

The company has in the last 3-4 years invested heavily in expanding production capacity and opening new stores. Last year, it opened 147 new stores, bringing its total number of stores across the world to over 1,000.

More than half of new openings were in China, where the number of stores now exceeds 500. Still, sales in the country declined last year due to what Christiansen called "macroeconomic" factors.

Lego will continue to invest and open new stores across the country to expand its brand, Christiansen said.

While top sellers included well-known themes like Star Wars, City and Technic, Lego is also betting on toys that combine the physical brick with the online world.

Recently it teamed up with Fortnite maker Epic Games who has launched a Lego branded version of the survival mode videogame. ($1 = 6.8262 Danish crowns) (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Aurora Ellis)