Jan 17 (Reuters) - U.S. consumers defied inflation to ring in a solid 2023 holiday shopping season that offered big discounts and flexible payments, displaying a strong appetite for beauty products and apparel and fueling a 3.8% rise in sales, National Retail Federation (NRF) data showed on Wednesday.

Holiday sales across both brick-and-mortar and online channels rose to $964.4 billion in the November through December period, coming largely above the NRF's prior expectation of a rise between 3% and 4%, in the range of $957.3 billion to $966.6 billion.

The much-awaited report from the U.S. trade association comes as the latest sign that despite tighter shopping budgets, Americans dug into their pockets to splurge on items like electronics, apparel and health and personal care products.

"Consumer spending was remarkably resilient throughout 2023 and finished the year with a solid pace for the holiday season," NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Apparel firms including Lululemon, Abercrombie & Fitch and footwear maker Crocs lifted their holiday-quarter sales targets last week, on a boost from fresher styles and leaner inventories.

While the holiday sales growth pace in 2023 slowed significantly from pandemic-era gains, the spending was consistent with the average annual increase of 3.6% from 2010 to 2019, the NRF said.

Online and non-store sales were up 8.2%, at $276.8 billion. Strength in sought-after categories like electronics and personal care was slightly offset by a decline in demand for building materials, garden supplies and home furnishings.

While holiday hiring for some retailers was lower than in past years, it was estimated that holiday jobs totaled 439,500 for November and December. The NRF expected retailers to hire between 345,000 and 450,000 seasonal workers in 2023.

The better-than-expected holiday quarter was in part due to the weekend that fell before Christmas this year, Kleinhenz said at the NRF's Big Show in New York on Monday.

(Reporting by Deborah Sophia and Juveria Tabassum in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Siddharth Cavale in New York; Editing by Pooja Desai)