Purpose Despite the numerous works on multifaceted relationships between customers and brands, such relationships remain complex and poorly understood in retailing. This research analyses the direct effects of brand images (hedonic, symbolic and functional) on three specific relationship variables (brand trust, brand attachment and brand social identification). It also investigates their indirect effects on three types of loyalty (cognitive, affective and normative) in retailing. Design/methodology/approach This paper is based on quantitative research involving 417 respondents. It uses structural equation models to test relevant research hypotheses. Findings The results show that hedonic brand image affects brand attachment, while functional brand image influences brand trust. Symbolic brand image has similar effects on the three relationship variables (attachment, trust, identification). Moreover, the relationships between brand image dimensions and brand loyalty types are positively mediated by attachment, trust and brand identification. Therefore, the authors highlight a more complex process in customer–brand relationships than previously thought. Research limitations/implications This article focusses on the cosmetic retail sector. It would be interesting to empirically test/extend the model in other industries/sectors. Future studies could also include brand attitude in their research model. Practical implications To strengthen affective loyalty, retail managers should focus on both hedonic image and brand attachment (e.g. emphasise the brand personality traits that refer to both affect and hedonism). To develop normative loyalty, they should improve symbolic brand image and facilitate customer brand identification. Originality/value This research provides a new three-dimensional model of customer relationships with brands to account for the dynamic nature of customer loyalty in retailing. It shows how three dimensions of brand image (hedonic, functional and symbolic) affect three types of loyalty (affective, cognitive and normative) through the mediation of three specific relationship variables (brand attachment, brand trust and brand identification).